The synopsis of Drive sounds like that of a Transporter movie with its stuntman moonlighting as a getaway driver. He has similar strict rules to his services which have kept him out of jail so far. But that’s where the similarities end as Drive is never as over-the-top as the Transporter movies are. The Driver is Ryan Goslin, a man of few words. He has multiple jobs, one being a stuntman, another working in a garage. And there’s the getaway driving. Due to the illegitimate character of this job he follows a strict code, one containing burner cell phones for instance. He’s shown to be a mellow character until someone recognizes him in a bar from a job and starts talking to him about another gig. This is the first time we see hem threaten someone and know there’s more to his mellow exterior.
He takes a liking in his neighbor and her son whom he comes across quite often but never seems to exchange a few words with her, until he stumbles upon her while having broken down car. Her husband is in jail and while he’s coming out soon he still becomes a surrogate father/husband for this short period of time. When the real father/husband returns he takes a step aside, and when the freshly released guy is forced to rob a pawn shop he helps him and becomes his getaway driver. But things go out of control when the score turns out to be $1,000,000, another car turns up seemingly aware of the robbery in progress and the husband getting killed by the pawn shop owner. What should have been an easy job has taken a turn for the worst and now the Driver has the mafia on his tail.
Driver is an art house action movie and never goes for the unrealistic overly-choreographed fights scenes that occupy Hollywood’s main stream movies. The opening scene where he’s trying to evade the cops when transporting two robbers is realistic and exciting. Instead of endless car chases he carefully hides behind trucks, under overpasses. Just breaking the speed limits on the highway will just get you caught. Just ask O.J.
Ryan Goslin plays a man of few words, acting with his body, his eyes, to tell what he’s thinking. His love interest played by Carey Mulligan is more verbal, but not really with him. They communicate a lot through body language. More out there is Bryan Cranston as Shannon, who is somewhat of Goslin’s mentor. He has him working in his garage, works together with him on the stunts and arranges the getaway gigs. Their, though probably more his, goal is to go into stock car racing and that takes money which a mob boss is happy to lend them. One of the more interesting aspects is that this part of the plot has got nothing to do with the fact the same mob boss becomes their enemy later on.
Another great aspect of the movie is the cinematography. The movie has a real retro feel to it, the clothes look 80s, the flashy handwritten pink font used for the opening credits reminded me of Miami Vice with its pastel colors. The Driver himself has a classic car, but there are a few current models on display well here too so it apparently is set present day.
Drive is a movie that believes in the mortality of its protagonist. There is a moment a mob boss on the phone asks him if actually knows what he’s doing. We see his insecurity. There have been a lot of movies about getaway drivers, but Goslin here is the most human of them all. This makes us not only care for the guy we actually know very little about, but also fear for his outcome as he might not get out of this alive.
Drive is a suspenseful thriller a couple of surprises up its sleeve. It’s an action movie that actually cares for its characters for once instead of merely focussing on its actions scenes. I wonder what director Nicolas Winding Refn could do with a Transformers movie.