February 15th, 2012

Woah, great, great film.  Short, and tight, and all painted with the sparest brushstrokes.  In its one man against the mob structure it reminds me a lot of those hard-bitten, ruthless, shiny but brutal gangster movies of the seventies of which I am so fond – stuff like The Outfit, The Getaway, The Driver, Charlie Varrick, Point Blank – and there seems to be a big nod to the seventies going on in general in the clothes, the score, the cars, and the neon-lit darkness of LA through which Ryan Gosling’s emotionally stunted stunt-car driver glides.  It’s a great performance – all understated silence, and occasional shy smiles, and occasional glimpses of a seriously dark side.  Silence is the key with this film, in fact, the sound design and editing are excellent, dialogue spare, all quietness, softness, empty pauses, tension building, from which violence explodes with an almost horror film like savagery.

Gripping stuff.

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on February 15th, 2012.

26 comments so far

  • JamesM says:

    yeah i loved it. it felt so realistic and tense, yet so stylish and beautiful. the opening scene is a testament to that with the driver using precision timing and knowledge of the environment to evade the cops rather than brute speed and skill at the wheel, and yet it’s so much more suspenseful than your average car chase scene. i particularly enjoyed the incredibly natural way gosling and mulligan’s characters relationship developed too, like you said the way aspects like mere looks and smiles and unstated things like the driver acting as a father figure of sorts to her child all making mulligan’s character become enamored with him, as opposed to snappy dialogue setting it up was a fresh of breath air. the acting had to be really good to make it work, but it does. it has a subtle brilliance to it. then the second half of the film by contrast is so intense and brutal. and like you said, that soundtrack. that soundtrack is fucking sick.

    yeah i’ve rambled now. but i can’t help it, as i said, i loved this film.

  • Tom Lloyd says:

    I thought it was decent, but putting far too much effort into being understated and quiet – as though the director paid extra attention to that film studies class and need to prove it. Also, there were a number of parts where characters were just stupid – excessively so. It made me think the writer was desperate to get it to a point where they could then put some shocking violence on the screen.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Suspense is the word. Right from the opening scene it just exerted a grip on me. I’m not sure what alchemy of sound, acting and editing was used to make the lead character so magnetic from the off, given that he was so utterly unexpressive. Perhaps the key was that he was a mystery you always wanted to know more about, but were never permitted to (like the characters around him). My wife made the interesting point that there’s always something fascinating about watching people who are incredibly good at something work. You are very right about the economy with which the relationships were created. There was one scene in particular in Mulligan’s flat, in which Gosling was sitting in the window, and there was hardly anything said but still you could see and understand the developing relationship. Having worked on documentaries a lot I know that there’s always a temptation to splatter the soundtrack with talk, the editor’s instinct is always to cut out the gap, lose the pause, literally cut to the chase, and opening up silences can be the hardest and most valuable thing to do.

    The Lloyd,
    You are dead to me AGAIN.

  • Chris Upton says:

    Pretty good. If there is a genuine merit in the “style over substance” argument (and I think the naysayers have a point) you just have to say-“Yeah, but what style!”
    Still, I have to say ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’was the best film of last year and like Drive was completely ignored by those plonkers at the academy.

  • Ryan Mark says:

    I was initially of Tom Lloyd’s opinion, but after a few re-watches in a better mood I really felt the movie as a whole much better. The quiet emotion which drives(hah) the characters, as you said, creates a powerful contrast to the violent spikes in aggression shown by Gosling.
    On scene in particular which shows it I thought was the in the elevator, where Gosling tenderly kisses her to move her away (yet with obvious emotion) and then proceeds to stomp the thugs head in. Such a violent turn is only witnessed the once and highlighted his characters duality in front of the woman he feels for and is protecting.

    It also threw back to Taxi Driver as well I felt, with a driver against criminals over a female he is attached to.

    Love it.

  • Daniel Platt says:

    Saw this at a preview event, where the director was doing a q&a. I was all excited beforehand, but I’m sorry to say I hated it. The man with no name gimmicks (the toothpick and daft jacket) were daft. Cary Mulligan was totally unconving, Christina Hendricks was underutilised. The villains were unoriginal. I enjoyed the first 5 minutes, and the bit in the lift is of course startling. But it just felt like someone trying to ape Michael Mann. Really disappointed.

  • DrGonzo says:

    Found Dirver over these guys.

    Normally everything would have keept me away from such a “car-chaising-something” but it sounded interesting. And it was well an actionmovie without action?!?!. Dont know but the silence and perfect acting made the atmosphere so intense.
    Its pretty hard to get my friend to watch this movie but everybody so far was happy giving it a try.

    I liked the scene in the strip club. Very minimalistic and hard. The whole violence was very effective and reminded me of the proposition.

  • Iangr says:

    Have to agree with D.Platt there,didn’t like it one bit.
    Kinda takes itself too seriously,I was half-expecting Gosling to create a Driver costume,put it on and go all Punisher on them mobsters.
    Come to think of it,I haven’t see a decent movie in quite some time now.The only notable that comes to mind is Inception.

    And District 9.Defo District 9.

    Hey Joe,wouldn’t it be great to see “The Heroes” on the Big Screen?
    M.Caine as Curnden Craw – ’nuff said!

  • Jay Franco says:

    I agree 100%, it was the silence and use of suspense and the amazing 70’s-ish score that kept this movie tight and moving along nicely. Also the silence made the violent scenes all the more stark and brutal. Not overblown, but striking. I was very impressed overall.

  • Darren says:

    It’s a great film once you realise that it isn’t H from steps

  • Jacob says:


    My friends say it’s good, the reviews say it’s good, and now one of my top authors says it’s a great film.


  • Tenesmus says:

    I also liked the movie, but it seemed the director over did it with the minimalist dialogue. It was a distraction, and too noticeable; it was if the director told the actors this is what the script says, but I want you to say it without words. A couple scenes of it would have been subtle and effective, but man, sometimes you need to hear people Talk in a movie!

  • Sedulo says:

    I thought Drive was excellent. Gosling firmly establishes the authentic feel of the drifter trying to blend in…but as in many tales…is pulled into a violent life (yet again based on the actions of the character)due to a damsel in distress. Loved the ending. I thought it had a classic bone structure, but enjoyed the minimal dialogue and cut-and-dried screenplay. “5 minute window”…indeed.

    Sometimes you just don’t need to hear people talk in a movie!

  • Sedulo says:

    I meant to say that Gosling’s character looks as though he is pulled into a violent life yet again. Like Shane!

  • Tim Stretton says:

    If you like Point Blank – have you read the novel by Richard Stark it was based on (The Hunter)? Your sort of thing, I think, I reckon: stripped back, bleak, with a wholly amoral anti-hero, Parker (a first name would be an unncessary frivolity).

    Stark is a pseudonym of the prolific Donald E Westlake, and there are about 20 Parker novels. They make Chandler’s mean streets look like kindergarten…

  • JamesM says:

    lol i find the people who say the film went too far with the lack of dialogue funny. watch the directors previous film valhalla rising and you’ll have a whole new perspective.

  • enjai says:

    It does seem to be a divisive film. There are parts where I think the silence is a little too long and there were occasions where I thought Ryan Gosling’s character may have been mentally handicapped but on the whole it is a very stylish film. When the violence occurs it literally explodes and creates an amazing sense of tension.
    It could have done with some more driving for a film called “drive” and the scene where they go skimming stones in a pond was a point where i thought “this is going to be awful”. Thankfully it didn’t really put a foot wrong after that.

  • DrGonzo says:

    @JamesM: Whoa?!? Valhalla Rising is from the same director? I see a pattern.
    No seriously in comparisson to this viking something movie there was much dialogue. Did like Valhalla Rising too, got to check for more the directors work.

  • Khaldun says:

    Yup. Great movie. Seems that people either love it or hate it, but it seems like the only people who didn’t like it were ones expecting a more hollywood-ized fast-paced movie.

    PS. Don’t, for the love of god, go and see Red Tails. One of the worst movies ever made.

  • Another great film from Nicolas Winding Refn, If you guy’s haven’t seen Bronson or The Pusher Trilogy, drop what you doing and go rent these film’s. Bronson is a “Instant Classic” and the Pusher Film’s have Mads Mikkelsen from Valhalla Rising in them. Great Director, Great Film’s.Check them out.

  • Eric says:

    This was my favorite movie of last year.It deserved way more recognition than it got,Drive was one of those movies that everyone was talking about but no one seemed to go see. Now that its out on dvd everyone is talking about it again and saying how much they loved it.Gosling was great. Brooks was vicious. Perlman over the top. Mulligan the damsel in distress.Blood, Violence, and Cars. Mix it up and you get a movie worth the price of admission.

  • Graham says:

    Drive and Planet of the Apes were probably my favourite films of last year.

  • Rachael says:

    Been a long time since I have seen an intelligent action film. Actually, when have I ever seen an intelligent action film?? Wait that’s not true I thought Rocky was a genuine piece of art….it’s sort of an action film?

    Any way, back to topic, Drive took cinema back to what The Artist is being praised for! It’s minimal dialogue made it a film you had to watch, in all senses of the word. Emotions, complex and delicate were there to be observed and then compared to/co-exist with the violence which was graphic and elemental.

    Cinema has bored me for few years now, so I fully appreciated and admired Drive.

  • Makka says:


    Just seen this in Ausland.

    Gotta agree. Great Movie.
    Surprising considering where it comes from.

    When ya coming to Aus.?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I’ll be in Aus for most of November.

  • Ryan Hebert says:

    Drive has become one of my favorite films, surprisingly it surpasses the quality of the book it was devoloped from. Books to film have a terrible track record, the book is always better. In the case of Drive and its sequel Driven by James Sallis, the movie became the power house.
    The director Nicolas Winding Refn (director of the amazing Pusher Trilogy) and lead actor Ryan Gosling are currently working on “Only God Forgives” a boxing/gangster film set in Thailand, and a remake of ‘Logan’s Run’.

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