Gosling is creating an admirable body of work. I can’t think of anyone from his generation that is working in such a wide variety of films. From Blue Valentine to Drive to Ides of March, these are three great films. And while Crazy, Stupid Love may not be great, it certainly shows a different side to his versatility as an artist.
Not sure how he’s “overexposed” though. He had three movies that came out in 2011. That’s half as many as Jessica Chastain – does that make her “double overexposed”?
“I can’t think of anyone from his generation that is working in such a wide variety of films.”
In Hollywood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great and he definitely has been doing a lot of different kinds of films (probably more than Gosling). But I’ve yet to see a performance from him that is on the same level as Gosling. This may just be a matter of taste but I think from what I’ve seen, Gosling is the superior actor.
“I can’t think of anyone from his generation that is working in such a wide variety of films"
Now Fassbender I would definitely put in the same category as Gosling. The roles he has been landing and the people he is choosing to work with – stellar. And like with Gosling, he’s got the talent to back it up. I’m very happy to see his career take off.
Yeah … this is the best film I’ve seen this year. 74/100 is a pretty low score, Jazz. It may hold significance for you, a slight acknowledge of a film being merely “good,” but for me, it’s low.
For me, Refn’s work consistently shows influences of Fassbinder, Melville, and yes, Carpenter. I still consider Pusher 3 to be Refn’s best work so far, but Drive is a very close second. There is no other filmmaker under 45 who has shown more promise than Refn in the past 10 years. I’m not going to go into finer points of the film because, I’m sure, after 9 pages, someone, somewhere has touched on everything. Suffice it to say, IMO, Drive is an excellent film that makes use of an excellent cast, ultra-effective minimalism, unparalleled atmosphere, crisp and simple editing, perfect flow, realistic/developed characters (characters who, I might add, actually think), complementary soundtrack, and a narrative that contains both a fantastic plot and a human character who reflects and challenges the audience to reflect. So, I am sincere when I say: 74/100 is a disheartening appraisal. I know the favourable reception of the film tends to make cinephiles wary (I was myself), but sometimes, just sometimes, the general public can recognize good work when they see it (rare, I admit, but it happens; and to deny the possibility of such an occurrence is mere contrariety).
Essentially, Refn is everything Christopher Nolan should have been and never will be. That’s not a great compliment, but Refn is gradually saturating his craft into the mainstream to increasing success – Nolan attempts to do this but repeatedly fails.
Some naysayers (those whose primary occupation in life is to bemoan their lack of success by criticising the success of others) regard accomplishment as something to shun, but recognition is not something to fear; denial of the world and society is something to fear. Why strive to be a lone voice crying in the wilderness? Why hold contempt for fluidity? It is a rare thing to “perfect” one’s craft and call it a singular style … Refn has been assembling such a style for the last six years – it’s happening before our very eyes. Has he created a masterpiece that can be spoken in the same breath as such classics as [insert your favourite obscure classic here]? Personally, I’d say Pusher 3 is it, but he can do better … and that’s encouraging.
The graphic violence in the film has been criticised but I’m constantly baffled by this denial of history and reality. Reality is violent, the violence in the film is not something that has never occurred in this reality … and it is not glorified. The driver finds no happiness in it, only loneliness and pain. We can shut our eyes to reality but reality remains – this is the glorification of ignorance, a far greater sin.
EDIT: To bring this back to the OP … in a lot of ways the film is about manliness. The inability to communicate, the projection of frustration upon others, the illusion of feminine “angelicism,” the loneliness one will inevitably resort to even in the guise of comfort, the violent nature of man (again, violence is key to the history of man). This is the nature of man, which is not to say that the nature of woman does not include such attributes, but without excessive conditioning/manipulation (by whatever influences one may wish to cite … religion, culture, society, peers, family, etc.), this is the nature of man. The film captures that … perhaps it was intentional, perhaps not, but yes, this film is about a man but not the glorification of what it means to be a man.
^ Great post, Deck. One of these days I’m going to see this film, again even if I have to keep my hands over my eyes during the extremely violent scenes.
^ Dada I just noticed that pic above. YUCK.
Suffice it to say, IMO, Drive is an excellent film that makes use of an excellent cast, ultra-effective minimalism, unparalleled atmosphere, crisp and simple editing, perfect flow, realistic/developed characters (characters who, I might add, actually think), complementary soundtrack, and a narrative that contains both a fantastic plot and a human character who reflects and challenges the audience to reflect.
I agree with a lot of what you say, but there are other points you make that I’d like you to expand on—specifically,"_…realistic/developed characters (characters who, I might add, actually think), complementary soundtrack, and a narrative that contains both a fantastic plot and a human character who reflects and challenges the audience to reflect._
In a way the characters are developed and realistic, but I don’t know if I’d point that out as a strength.(They’re not realistic in a Mike Leigh or Casavettes sense.) A In some ways, the characters are cartoonish—but that’s appropriate for the film. (I’d like to hear you expand on “characters that think”and remark.)
The plot was OK, but not outstanding to me, but, again, I didn’t think the plot needed to be—and it might have detracted from the film if it was—diminishing the expressiveness of the film.
What’d you make of the use of the early 80s sound of the soundtrack? I thought it was a little odd at first, because the film feels like a car chase/action film from the 70s.
I’d also like to hear you expand on how the character thought and challenged the audience to reflect (not because I disagree with you, but I’m just curious to hear your thoughts about this).
I want to say several things about my 74/100 rating:
1. 74 is a solid score for me. (A 95/100, for me, would be all-time great film. A score in the 80s is a very good-to-great film.)
2. I mentioned early that I could bump the score up higher, closer to 80. I think my scores are a combination of my personal enjoyment and my evaluation of how good the film is. If I were rating this purely on how good it is, it would probably be higher—mainly because I do think the style is very good. On the other hand, I don’ t think the style is so great that it warrants a score closer to the 90s; nor do I think the treatment of the themes or any other quality of the film justifies such a score. It’s a good film—maybe even a very good—but not exceptional or unique, imo.
3. Fwiw, my rating doesn’t reflect the fact that it has gotten some mainstream success or critical acclaim.
Essentially, Refn is everything Christopher Nolan should have been and never will be.
I think of them differently. Refn, to me, (I’ve only seen two of his films) is more of a stylist, has more of a personal style. But my sense is that he’s bigger on style and not very substantive on…substance. We’ll see as he develops, though. His films are nice to look at, and I’ll definitely keep my eye on him.
Nolan is technically solid filmmaker, but I see his strength more in the plot and story—specifically the clever concepts behind his stories. Nolan has good, clever ideas, but, imo, his weaknesses are a lack of discipline, focus and restraint with regard to these ideas (He seems to cram too many ideas into his films, which results in a half-baked feeling or a mess of a film). I also think he needs to improve on developing a story and characters. This is related to the first criticism. Imo, he should focus more developing the story in relation to developing the characters—and less on plot.
Realistic is not a word I would have chosen for the characters in Drive. Vivid, maybe.
If you look at what Nolan’s doing formally, particularly in his The Dark Knight and Inception, but also in The Prestige and Memento and Following, he’s primarily interested in crosscutting between story elements, so he’s very much a structuralist (in the literary sense, not the film theory sense).
Refn is a lot less rigorous, and I think it would even be fair to say primitive, stylistically speaking, which allows them a certain immediacy that Nolan will never be able to deliver. Refn is more of a mise-en-scène guy; Nolan is more of a montage guy (though more in the Griffith sense than the Eisenstein sense).
“Realistic is not a word I would have chosen for the characters in Drive”
I guess it would depend on your definition of “realistic”. I mean, if Deckard is saying DRIVE is realistic like a Mike Leigh film, then no, I don’t agree. But I do think the characters are realistic in their emotions and in the world that Refn has created. Does that make sense? In other words, nothing seems false here. In the world that he has created for the film, everything seems true and realistic. Yes, Gosling might be a cypher or a symbol or whatever. But his actions and his behavior is realistic to the story.
Yeah . . . but even in terms of internal coherence and plausibility, for me the film takes some awfully big leaps. I’m not saying that they’re not compelling in there own uniquely Refnian sorta way, but . . .
Agreed: While something like donning the latex mask to attack Pearlman may also have realistic motivations (an anonymous disguise for the attack), that certainly feels subservient to and inconsequential beside its surrealistic motivations within the continuity of the films established style. And this is something Refn is in the process of developing. DRIVE is certainly not prioritizing realism compared to, say, PUSHER.
I feel legitimate grief for poor Anna Kendrick there.
Drive has stirred more discussion than most films this year. I keep hearing chatter about “graphic violence” yet no one seems to acknowledge the scenes where violence was portrayed obliquely, such as the beach scene when Perlman’s character is murdered in a very long shot, or the final murder shot in shadow. Even the now-infamous elevator sequence was covered as a reaction shot of Gosling’s face for the most part. NWR was obviously making a statement by the variety of ways he shot these episodes.
I’ve tried my best to read all 9 pages, but I have skimmed at times, so forgive me anything has been mentioned!
Firstly, im glad the soundtrack has been mentioned, because I think its fantastic!
Secondly, I know Noe has been mentioned, but did anyone feel the night shots of L.A looked like Tokyo in ‘Enter The Void’? The use of colour (also the soundtrack I felt matched the colours), often these bright [neon] lights going past dark corners etc.
Thirdly, and i’ve only thought of this while reading the thread, but earlier there was some discussion about after the stabbing in the car at the end, and the small moment when has he/hasn’t he died. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but there was a few seconds when I thought he was dead in the car. Now, if we carry that through, and say he is dead, and the driving at the end is some sort of spiritual thing, then what does the ending mean? Well, we know that from earlier he has no future, he has been told that no matter what happens in his life that he is always a hunted man, he can never be in peace, but as long as he avoids people, he might be ok. Is this a representation of some kind of limbo? Is the ending him driving off to a place that is neither heaven or hell?
I consider the characters realistic because, within the logic of the film (the cinematic world Refn has created within the film), the characters act and react naturally, what they do and say is plausible within this world … unlike Leigh or Cassavetes’ characters who are bound to this world where the films are less about plot than they are humanist studies, like real life there are no plots, only ‘characters.’ In Drive, the characters are not given clear backstories, instead Refn works with ‘impressions’ of characters rather than outlined pasts and relationships with erratic emotions. In Drive, the characters hide their emotions. This is another facet that can be attributed to Jazz’s original suggestion … a film about manliness and the hiding of emotion. What are these characters’ motivations? How do they really feel about each other? There’s occasional sympathy in Brooks’ character but he is bound to the rules of the film … the inevitability of his pre-written fate. All of the characters are caught up in this and they are resigned to it. It’s a film about the inability to control one’s destiny, that destiny is something that one must simply endure.
I should’ve been more clear though, the film is not a ‘realistic’ film per se but has realistic elements. The film is still ensconced in fantasy – it’s like a realistic fable; there’s a very Peckinpah-ish moral here: violence accomplishes nothing but misery for everyone. It’s an expressionistic film, not a naturalist one.
@Reflection: Because the film’s characters have no clearly defined pasts, motivations, etc., the audience is required to use their imagination. The more vivid the imagination, the more vivid the film will be. Ultimately, the audience must reflect upon their own experiences/preferences/familiarities in order to do this. If the characters were more conventionally defined there would be less need for reflection. One must wonder during the film whether a character’s action is driven by selfishness, sympathy, poor judgment, premeditation, what-have-you. The film is not just about ‘driving’ (in fact, that’s merely the film’s hook) but about what drives people to do the things they do.
@thinking characters: There’s a scene around 43:30 (yes, I checked heh) where the Driver must make a decision. Refn holds on the character thinking. There’s no cinematic manipulation at all here; the audience is literally watching the character think.
It’s similar to del Toro’s character in Way of the Gun where he must make a decision that will have a major impact on the character and the film (this is near the end, during Lewis’ delivery). There’s a lot of time devoted to simply holding on the character, sitting there, thinking. Most films nowadays don’t take the time to do that. This is what added an element of realism. The characters do not act robotically or automatically but must make decisions. Cassavetes and Leigh did the same thing, the only difference is the world in which the character inhabit.
Celery makes a good point too … I thought it was pretty clear that, at the end, we are given the initial impression that the Driver is dead. It’s an odd, subtle form of suspense when he finally shows animation. I did interpret it as a sign of his immortal loneliness. In fact, it would’ve been more “heroic” (the irony of the soundtrack comes through here) if he did die but it’s actually more tragic the way it ends. He doesn’t die, he is doomed/fated to this existence, like Roland in the Dark Tower (I apologize in advance for referencing Stephen King, but it seems a fitting comparison). Another irony of the ending is that, yes, now he will be a hunted man, always looking over his shoulder and will probably die a sudden, violent death in the near future … he’s forced to avoid people, but he’s been doing that anyway. His smirk when Albert Brooks’ character lays out the truth of his future is his realisation of this. One must wonder … did he already suspect that Brooks’ character was going to try to kill him? He must’ve considered it … and yet he leads him to the car anyway, even turns his back on him. Did he want to die? Was the message he left for Irene (“I’m going far away”) a ‘prediction’ of his own death?
On the subject of colour in the film … all of Refn’s films have a distinct reddish hue (he attributes this to his colour blindness), sometimes more apparent, sometimes desaturated, but always there. The Pusher films, Valhalla Rising, and Bronson all have instances of extreme red. Drive is no different … what philosophical significance it holds (if any) is questionable but it’s an interesting consistency in Refn’s work.
the first thing i said to my friend about this film, aside from very much enjoying it, was that the two films it most reminded me of was Thief and Le Samourai. it’s nice to hear such echos in the reviews for this film, and i am glad that the spirit of Jean-Pierre Melville is still alive and well.
other than that, i have nothing else to add to any of the comments above, other than to echo their praises.
@CeleryFC: There is a scene earlier in the film (possibly even two) where The Driver challenges the boy not to blink. When we are watching him in that final close shot behind the wheel, we are truly “in suspense”, and the filmmaker is challenging us in the same way “not to blink”. The Driver blinks first, grins, and moves on.
Christien Tuttle, thats a good point, I hadn’t remembered that.
That’s a great observation, Christien.
hey thanks guys ~
I too am interested in theories regarding the reality of that ending(an uncertainty that renders the film further akin to Taxi Driver).
I’d like to analyze it later on, but for now, I’m actually having trouble recalling precisely what else we do see after he drives away from Brooks’ corpse. Obviously there is the footage of him driving, but what else?
There’s Irene at his door and walking away.
Okay, yeah. Thanks, Deckard.
To me, the film is essentially about the push and pull of nature and identity against our ability to control either one. Obviously, this is echoed primarily in the Driver. He’s not a “good guy”, even if he wants to be. He’s just playing one in the moment. It’s a heroic facade laid over a dark, brutal individual. He can’t escape that. The other important male characters echo the idea as well. Nino does everything he can to fashion himself as an Italian mafioso, but, at the end of the day, he’s still a Jewish outsider to that crowd. Shannon’s monetary lust constantly cripples him. He’d probably live a richer life if he could dodge that desire, but he can’t. Bernie wants to be “legitimate”, but he can’t escape being a gangster. A part of him will always survive by violence. Finally, there’s Standard. He wants to be a family man, yet he dies a criminal.
The film pokes at this endlessly in dialogue. It got to be a bit much at times, particularly with the verbal reference to the scorpion/frog parable (which should have been left for the audience to infer visually, imo). I do really enjoy the illustration provided by the mask. Using it in the attack on Nino is not essential to the plot, which draws the audience’s attention to its inclusion. For some reason, I really love that.
I feel the violence is intended to be shocking. After the meandering romanticism of the first act or so, the first gunshot is completely jarring. Yes, it’s stylized at times, but I don’t think you could appropriately label it gratuitous. I don’t know that I’d immediately jump to a Cronenberg influence either. I mean, I definitely see where you guys are coming from, so I don’t disagree necessarily. I just think a lot of the images more directly hearken back to 70’s gore than Cronenberg. Taxi Driver contains similarly-intentioned and -stylized images in my opinion, though I have no grounds on which to say that Drive directly references/was influenced by that particular film. I would probably draw the Cronenberg conclusion from the elevator scene were I not distracted by the brief image of the smashed head, which instantly takes my mind to Irreversible.
As for influences, I’m really intrigued by the relation to Melville. I did not walk out of the theater after either viewing with that in mind, but I think that it definitely seems tangible when you stop and think about it. I know Refn has mentioned Pretty Woman as being a main influence. That sounds ridiculous, but I buy it, at least for the first act. People keep mentioning Mann, but I tend to think that’s at least a little incidental. Am I crazy to see a little bit of DePalma in there? Perhaps that association is incidental as well.
In regards to the “maleness” thing: I would definitely agree that the film takes a male perspective, but I don’t really agree that it directly explores masculinity itself. I think you could take a female perspective on the same conflict that Drive examines without changing the general nature of the conflict itself. It would be completely different movie, obviously, but the ideas could still be present.
So it appears I agree with Deckard regarding the “realistic” thing. His explanation is a lot more articulate than mine, but a bit more wordy so I give myself some points for being concise.
It’s all Melville, kids. Gosling can easily fill the shoes of Alain Delon, but Refn is nowhere near filling those of Jean-Pierre.
Why does Refn have to fill the shoes of Melville? Melville was just an influence.