Review: Drive (2011)

Drive is what action films should strive to be. Devoid of CGI and with little special effects, Drive executes its action sequences flawlessly, while keeping its audience captivated.

The plot centers around an unnamed man, simply referred to as Driver (Ryan Gosling). His life revolves around cars. He works as a mechanic in a local garage run by Shannon (Bryan Cranston) and does stunts for movies in the daytime. He also moonlights as a getaway heist driver. Shannon refers Driver to mobsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) Nino (Ron Perlman) after Shannon gets the idea of Driver becoming a professional racer.

Along the way, he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), who is married to Standard (Oscar Isaac), freshly released from prison. A connection forms between Driver and Irene, and he agrees to help out Standard when he runs into trouble. The plot has its fair share of twists and turns after that, and the violence escalates to nearly unwatchable levels.

But there are two things that separate Drive from the normal action flick.

The first is the way the action unfolds. Take the opening sequence, when Driver is hired to be the get away driver for a robbery. So much attention to detail is put in to make the scene as realistic and heart pounding as possible. The car is a souped up Impala, chosen because it is the country’s most common car, and less likely to raise attention.

A chase ensues, but Driver carefully uses bridges, alleyways and darkness to evade the police. It isn’t just about using overpowering speed as seen in other car films – it’s also about using the brain to outsmart Driver’s opponents.

The second difference is Gosling’s marvelous performance as the unnamed Driver. The movie, based on the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name, barely has the lead character speak throughout the novel. The movie is true to Sallis’ intent, and Gosling’s dialogue is spoken mostly through his expressions, which he does extraordinarily well. He speaks only when the occasion calls for it.

It is for these reasons that Drive is the exact kind of action film that breaks the mold of what we’ve gotten used to in this genre. Other action films should take note, because this is how a movie of this kind should be made.

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