|Drive director, Nicholas Winding Refn. Genius.|
Last night, Michael and I watched Drive. Honestly, I have a hard time getting into popular movies because their impact is usually fleeting; I watch once, and eh, I don't carry anything significant away from it. (I express this effect a little more coherently in this essay: "Palahniuk's Fight Club Punch". )
And yet, like Fight Club, every once in awhile, there's a movie that completely floors me. Usually, it's because there's something more powerful underpinning the narrative than violence or love interests. Drive has this amazing impact, on a variety of levels.
None of this has to do with the gore factor. Michael and I were joking after the movie was over that they must have spent a great deal of their budget on fake blood because there is arterial spatter or outright purple puddles of it in almost every one of the closing scenes. And while it's purposefully gratuitous (indicating just how metaphorically messy this man's life gets) and appeals to those who expect their movies to come with a heaping helping of violence, it doesn't make the movie bad, as gore often does.
I'll admit, too, that I don't find Ryan Gosling fall-over-and-have-a-fit attractive, so his physical appeal actually has little to do with what lit me up about the movie. It's his attitude and demeanor, the inability to tell just what he's thinking, and the tremor and sweating that comes after a rush of adrenaline. He is a believable bad a$$, both tough and remorseful. I'll admit that I sympathize more with Gosling (as the protagonist) than desire him simply because part of me, perhaps surprisingly to those who know me now, is a double-barrelled, squinting-into-the-future vigilante. Don't believe it? Ask my elementary school teachers: I was a tomboy, hard to control, and in trouble--if not each day--then four out of every five. I calmed down by middle school and became a model citizen by high school. However, I still carry that robust vein of outlaw to which Drive appeals.
But yes, there's so much more than that to Refn's film: there's the framing, the tension, the long silences, the purposeful absence of dialogue and music, and finally the inclusion of music. What appears below is not the actual opening of the movie, which occurs after Gosling has exhibited his skill and acumen as a get-away driver. Instead, it is a montage of movie moments. I don't find this as powerful as what Refn uses to roll the opening credits, which is simply Gosling driving through LA, his dash dials glowing, his driving gloves on, a tooth pick hanging from his mouth, while gazing quietly into the stop lights and street lights. The original Refn opening (with music by Kavinsky) is what got me looking in the direction of Michael's computer in the first place (I was working on something else entirely), and it's what lit my synapses up so that I continued watching. It's proof, too, that electronica is incredibly alluring.
Refn's cinematic vision is genius. Honestly, I'd like to step inside his head and see what else resides there.