Let me get two things out of the way. One: Drive (2011) is a great “American” film highly recommended for intelligent film lovers that enjoy a good strong slice of adult entertainment. Two: Its has an 18 certificate which means that the film may include scenes of hard drug use, supernatural horror, explicit sex or in the case of the film under discussion, very strong gory violence. Where’s he going with this you may well ask? Well I’ll tell you, when you attend a cinema to view an “18” film you relinquish the right to complain about the films content, knowing full well that it will probably upset you if you have a weak disposition. Even so, in my opinion the film includes no more violence than your standard child’s fairy story where the wicked are always punished in what can be violent and extreme ways, preserving innocence and purity against evil. I would suggest however that cinema goers take due account of the certificate that the BBFC award a movie before shelling out their well earned pennies. Enough of this rant, on to the business in hand.
As your now aware the RBC Film Club featured Drive on Monday night. The evening began with a short but precise introduction from our resident film scholar Connor McMorran. Described as 2011’s coolest movie it tells a story about a man who is known only as Driver. An outsider, a skilled mechanic and a movie stuntman by day and a getaway driver by night, whose life appears to be managed by garage owner and cripple Shannon. When Driver meets Irene, a waitress in a local diner and mother of a young son Benicio, he suddenly finds a mission in life. Irene’s husband comes out of jail with outstanding financial obligations to the local mob, our wheelman decides to throw his weight behind the ex-con to allow him to pay his dues and retire to a life of domestic bliss with his young family. Nothing goes to plan and subsequently throws Drivers life into an ever-increasing violent spiral.
The discussion that followed the screening raised some interesting points. Firstly how American was this movie? Its director Nicolas Winding Refn, known for violent movies including the Copenhagen based Pusher trilogy and the British movie Bronson (2008) (that elicited such a great performance from Tom Hardy), is Danish so the whole thing is filtered through the eyes of a budding auteur with a European perspective. Hossein Amini an Iranian wrote the screenplay adapted from the 2005 novel by James Sallis. In particular the lighting and the camera work gave it the feel of a European art house movie and along with the sudden intense violence of a modern South Korean film injected a edgy tension in to this very well made movie. Another point was the film influences. The director has acknowledged that both Peter Yate’s Bullitt (1968) and John Schlesinger’s 1975 movie The Day of the Locust were an influence. But I would suggest that Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western characters inspired the personality of Driver: an outsider, no background or past, no real name, lack of the spoken dialogue and like the cars he drives, has an unremarkable facade that deliberately masks the fearsome capability beneath the surface. I would suggest that the “coolness’ could be based on a certain Mr Steve McQueen, some of the characters he played in the sixties and early seventies display similar characteristics.
|Driver gets to know his neighbour.|
Something else that was discussed was the cast. Our stunt man was played by the very promising Ryan Gosling, a London born Canadian whose best work to date has been Half Nelson (2006) Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and a film recently shown at the RBC Film Club Blue Valentine (2010). Irene, an under written part which does not allow the 26-year-old British BAFTA winner Carey Mulligan any real acting scope. Mulligan made her feature film debut only 6 years ago in Pride and Prejudice (2005), since then I have seen her in And When Did You Last See Your Father (2007), Public Enemies (2009), her big break came with the award winning An Education (2009) and the highly acclaimed Never Let Me Go (2010). The mob connected Shannon is performed by Bryan Cranston an American TV and film actor who grew up in Los Angeles where the film is set. Shannon’s mob connections are played by comedian Albert Brooks and Hell Boy himself Ron Perlman. Irene’s husband is acted by Oscar Isaac who indecently was King John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010). The mysterious Blanche, involved in the robbery that when wrong, is portrayed by Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks. It was agreed that it was a very interesting and inspired cast who all played their part in making this stylish film one of the ever growing list of impressive American films. And don’t forget to order the Chris Martinez soundtrack you won’t be disappointed.