By Tracey A.M @hostile_17
A cold October afternoon, dressed in a sequined dress, with three hours to kill before a red carpet event, I decided to shelter from the rain in the Odeon Covent Garden. The film choices were two: Midnight in Paris or Drive. Woody Allen’s latest was attracting quite a crowd of ‘Silver Screeners’ and so, as I was feeling foolish in my evening attire, I plumped for the entirely empty screening Drive.
On handing me my ticket the box office girl spoke perhaps the truest words ever uttered to me: ‘You might think you haven’t enjoyed it when it’s over, give it time, I guarantee it will stick with you’.
The opening bars of Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx’s Nightcall kicked in, played over stunning panoramic night shots of L.A. in all its neon glory and my expectation levels reached the roof. What followed was indeed a slick, pulpy thriller with a killer soundtrack – but little else. Yes, my interest had been held throughout, but following all the recent hype in the press I’d wanted to be utterly gobsmacked.
On meeting my husband afterwards & being asked the obligatory ‘Well…?’ my response had been ‘Errr……..the soundtrack was pretty amazing…..it looked good too’. However, making my way home in the small hours all I could think was how much I needed to see Drive again, as soon as humanly possible.
My initial ambivalence was about to take a dramatic kick to the teeth. This subsequent viewing was an atmospheric, dreamlike experience. My frustrations concerning lack of substance melted away as I was lost in Winding Refn’s hyper-stylised, neo-noir fairytale.
Gosling as The Driver has become an iconic figure, the character intrinsically defined by what he does, he drives. His speech and actions are as cool and measured as the expertly calculated manoeuvres he makes, both by day as a stunt driver and by night in his more salubrious career as a getaway driver for hire. The fact that he remains unnamed throughout further emphasising this. He speaks so little then when he does we hang on his every word.
Despite oozing coolness and machismo we see a softer side to The Driver in his surprisingly chaste relationship with neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio. The relationship with Irene, seemingly out of character for a man apparently with no ties in life, is played out as a series of wanting looks and knowing smiles, however, the intimate bond developing between them is almost palpable.
Like all good movie romances their relationship is hampered by complications, mainly stemming from Irene’s newly paroled husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) and a sticky situation he has gotten himself into during his recent prison stint. Unlike typical Hollywood stories where the husband, an obstacle in the way of love, would be portrayed as a savage menace, Standard is an affable family man who has taken a few wrong turns is life. The Driver, being Irene’s White Knight can do nothing but help when her safety is threatened. The Driver, who we have only seen as a quiet, reserved man switches to an uber-violent protector, clouded by an almost psychotic rage when called for.
However, before I get carried away, my passion for this film isn’t based around the plot or the cast and their acting ability; indeed, I can understand why many would be turned off. Every viewing still holds me rapt and I believe this is largely due to the stunning aesthetics (shallow me?). Drive switches effortlessly between sundrenched, oversaturated ethereal shots to harsh, bold, neon-lit scenes. The framing, lighting and colour in every single shot is always impeccable, elevating it from standard heist thriller into arthouse masterpiece – Winding Refn holds a huge debt of gratitude to Newton Thomas Sigel who is responsible for the astounding cinematography and also to Cliff Martinez for the incomparable score and use of diegetic sound to such sublime effect. To this day I still get a frisson of excitement listening to the soundtrack in my car and the imagery within the film has become a huge part of popular culture (I’m only ever 6 gins away from a scorpion tattoo).
I could waffle all day, but I hope this has gone a little way in explaining (or apologising) for the place Drive holds in my heart and in my Blu-Ray collection. Want a toothpick?