Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and based on a book of the same name by James Sallis released in 2005, Drive is the film I always think of first when I’m asked about my all time favourites.
The film’s premise sounds like a lot of films you’ve probably seen before. A highly skilled unnamed (we’ll call him Driver, imaginative I know) stunt driver by day utilises his astute abilities in the night as a getaway driver for small time criminals. After developing a strong bond with his neighbour Irene and her son, the driver looks to protect them by offering his expertise to Irene’s recently released from prison husband who owes a large amount of money for the protection he received during his time behind bars.
Now I personally find what sets Drive apart from the crowded action movie market is it’s ability to tell a story by showing rather than telling. The Driver is a quite character and his love for Irene is portrayed not through dialogue, but rather through sincere gestures and looks between the two characters. It’s a minimalist approach to romance that is refreshing and makes you really believe Driver is doing what he does best to improve the lives of those he cares about. A genuine motivation rather than action for actions sake that creates investment into the high stakes drama that only rises in tension as the film goes on.
All of this set in the backdrop of Los Angeles. Stylish shots, neon colours and a strong, pop/techno soundtrack creates a neo-noir tone that immerses you into the hectic world that The Driver does his best to make sense of. You get the impression Driver is taken advantage of by his employers, criminals and anyone else that can profit from him, often violently. But, he is truly happy behind the wheel and if he benefits himself from his driving he is happy. And even happier still to do so for the few he cares about.
Plot backed by brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks who would each steal their scenes if the talent wasn’t as consistent throughout, I was completely on board with the premise and motivations. This made the impact of every characters actions hit home and made me really route for Driver to come out on top. He’s not saving the world, he’s doing everything he can to make himself happy.
Drive teaches us not all action/thriller films have to be mindless. Showing, not telling, us why we should care at all puts this film up there with the best in my mind. Creating motivations we can get behind makes the action worth watching rather than being dazzled by explosive set pieces or shocked at gory violence. Why should you watch Drive? Because every scene hits home. Style, substance and immersion makes every moment one you cant take your eyes off, for the characters drive the action. Not the other way around.