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Drive is an unbelievable film that though pushed as mainstream media, is a sneakily subversive film. I think that the mass appeal of the film’s story is a misunderstanding, mediated in part by uneven cutting of the film, but mostly due to audiences superimposing the world’s most popular tale over a film that criticizes that very structure. Yet regardless of content, cinematic style is a key factor in this movie’s success.
I’ve heard comparisons to Ryan Goslings character as a “white knight” similar to the nameless hero that Clint Eastwood plays in Spaghetti Westerns, but this is not the case. Ryan Gosling is at least superficially a strong “superman” type character, but what stops the film from becoming instantly kitsch is the lack of any morality. Even before the film’s action starts to develop, Gosling is portrayed as a void and distant person, to such an extent that his few words and strange behavior start to look like symptoms of some social disorder rather than just confidence and self-sufficiency. At a point in the film, Gosling is watching a cartoon with his neighbor’s kid, and asks if a shark is a “bad guy” while the child responds “of course.” This kind of an insert into the film is for me a clue away from the “superman sets things right” impression that many seem to have gotten from the picture.
Another interesting difference between typical “rightful revenge” type movies and this one is the fragility of the world. Injuries that don’t go away, and the incredible ease of hurting and killing people in the film vilainize violence, and separate the human beings that chose to be violent from the rest of the world. The fact that Gosling doesn’t approach a single situation with a firearm, rather a melee weapon, makes each of his kills a display of heightened brutality to ravage recklessly rather than a superior skill used to subdue the sinister.
The delicate condition of the world makes strength peripheral to killing, so is there anything really “superman” about Gosling? An instant response would be his unbeatable driving, but, I was very surprised at how little driving there was in this film. The most exciting car chase showcased Gosling’s lack of fear for danger to a greater extent than his skill. The camera movement, as well as the shrieks of a woman, showed the chase as a chaotic situation that couldn’t affect Gosling, and to me seemed an ode to his lack of connection the the world.
Yet, the film is not even in presenting Gosling. There is a scene where he argues with his boss and seems just like a normal person protecting his interests. Gosling gets frustrated in this scene, and actually has an involved back and forth dialogue. The rest of the film has Gosling sporting an awkward slight smile and scarcely tossing out hollow lines into conversations.
The film shows Gosling as a distant character taken advantage of. His boss tells others of how he doesn’t give Gosling fair pay for his work, and as an employee his talents seem to be milked to the fullest extent in many fields. The violent acts Gosling commits are all reactionary or goal driven in an impersonal way, and are not driven by revenge; he doesn’t kill to get even, but ultimately kills to protect his neighbor and himself. Goslings selflessness is not a trait of nobility, it is shown as an alien quality that exposes him to situations where he must do wrong. People try to make him the victim, but he refuses.
But that’s all content, and though it seems that the message of the film seems quite malleable, the form of it is the real draw. Camera placement and lighting are mastered in Drive. A very dirty Los Angeles River is beautified as a spot to spend an afternoon with your date, sweat drips down to the camera as Gosling stands over a victim to accentuate nerves and fright in a state of apparent power, shadows convey a murder to show how action and movements are only a silhouette of a character. Image choice and manipulation are incredibly powerful storytellers in this film, and I’m sure there’s plenty of photographic choices with a significance that I missed on my first watch-through. Hopefully I’ll glean more the second time round, this is a film I would definitely re-watch, and I hope even the squeamish will see Drive, because it’s thick with awesome-ness.
M (1931) – 90/100
Excellent narrative of a race between a band of criminals and the police to catch a child murderer. Very engaging story even though no single perspective is stuck with for long. Particularly smooth camera work blends the picture into a cohesive story, and especially passionate acting makes this a great film.
Good Bye, Lenin! (2004) – 85/100
Superb music and a unique plot are the highlights of a drama where a son manipulates his mother’s world to protect her fragile heart.
Lola (1981) – 78/100
Unbelievable use of color livens up this film for the most part, but continuously dreamy depictions get tiring after a while. Very well cut, but the subject matter of a sexually free woman reigning over several men’s lives just to prove she can becomes too fearsome, not melancholy, for me.
Veronika Voss (1982) – 92/100
An unbelievable film written and captured perfectly. A great script full of excellent one liners. A perfect dose of subtle creepiness, and a riveting, enigmatic plot about who pulls the strings behind a decaying film star, and a man who tries to uncover the whole crazy yet probable scheme.
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) – 90/100
A very intriguing narrative of a woman and the men she goes through over the years during and after WWII while always acting for her and her husband’s interests.
Wings of Desire (1987) – 84/100
Some scenes are very engrossing, but others feel distant though admirable. Dialogue is a highlight, and once the film switches from black and white to color it becomes much more engaging. Though its relatively slow, it ends too abruptly and feels like a dream thats suddenly gone. I saw this after the American remake, which is very different in mood, but exactly alike in shot composition and roughly in message.
Stupid Crazy Love (2011) – 52/100
I don’t have the heart to say that anything that Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell are involved in sucks, so I’ll just say it sucks except for them. Totally manipulative script set to lure sympathy from the audience instead of express anything, at all. A useless 2nd conflict unnecessarily lengthens the movie, and characters are diluted so as to be overly relatable. Formulaically kitsch.
Our Idiot Brother (2011) – 68/100
Pretty good popcorn flick with a normal amount of laughter. Definitely a new approach to criticizing the modern man/woman’s overly conceited and self-absorbed personality, but it ends with a surprising lack of resolution.
Annie Hall (1977) – 98/100
Pshhhh, perfect portrayal of a relationship by the world’s most likable narrator.
Match Point (2005) – 99/100
Undeniably awesome film about the man we’re all told to be. A lovely highlight on the role of chance in a story of a man’s unrelenting fight for what he wants.
The Shinning (1980) – 100/100
My 3rd viewing of the film. Brilliant. Just Brilliant. Jack Nicholson in his greatest role in the greatest horror flick of all time.
Hanna (2011) – 88/100
My 2nd viewing of the film. Excellent tackling of a trivial plot, if only all action flicks were this heavy on style. Great synchronization of music with action, camera work exemplifies the mood of key scenes, and surreal depictions of other scenes really communicate the feelings of the characters. This film is an analogy of an animal running through a complex maze, and every stylistic choice effectively communicates the flavor of the situations in the film, and leaving meaning to be irrelevant. But, I don’t think this thoughtless depiction of perception comes off obviously enough. The scarce explanation of the plot that there is, intellectualizes a film about feelings, and should have been left out. As is, superfluous elements are introduced to the viewer, trying to justify action. But this is contradictory to the overall message of the film, and muddies it, knocking it down from a home run.
Blue Velvet (1986) – 84/100
Crazy and disturbing view of depravity, and how easy it is to brush away that depravity, in a suburbia near you. Very straightforward for a David Lynch film.
Mulholland Drive (2001) – 86/100
The biggest example for an ending justifying the whole film. Everything will seem terrible and stupid until you reach the last half hour or so. You’ll be convinced that this is another “so-bad-its-good” film, then you’ll reach the end, and everything will make sense.
Cocoon (1985) – 58/100
Weird tales of aliens and old people, not exciting in the least. But, the music from Super 8 was pulled from this, so at least that’s good.
Deep End (1970) – 76/100
Some parts are so good, other parts are so bad. This is due to acting that is very inconsistent, but at least your interest will be kept peaked by an alluring tale of the sexual tension between a young boy and a slightly older woman. Stylistically memorable for great color palettes, and the fact that its an unconventional buldingsroman makes it an “alright watch.”
30 minutes or less (2011) – 15/100
Terrible plot, pathetic jokes, repulsive characters. A lame catalogue of losers doing their thing.
Super (2010) 2/100
This movie is evil. A portrayal of the depravity in an overgrown child in a disgusting style. This movie glamorizes unjust violence, and gives right to the naive taking action when they have no right. And if everything was meant to be sarcastic, I still can’t handle such disgusting subject matter. I just feel guilty watching such pathetic characters, the feeble shouldn’t be glamorized or ridiculed, whichever this dark movie is trying to do.