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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/31/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/24/2012
I'm sure that there are people who assume that movies from anywhere in the world are pretty much all the same. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Each region of the world has it own specific way of making movies and it's own "film language" which inhabits the films. For example, the "Bollywood" movies from India feature many musical numbers which can often seem absurd to outsiders. Films from Japan can depict very bizarre acts of depravity, and yet they are very strict about nudity. From those who aren't familiar with them, films from Europe can seemed very slow when compared to their American counterparts. The Europeans don't mind showing certain events, such as walking or driving, in minute detail and this kind of pace can seem sluggish when compared to Hollywood product. Drive is an interesting experiment which combines this sort of Euro-approach to filmmaking with a Hollywood action movie. How will that work out?
Ryan Gosling stars in Drive as a man who lives in several worlds. (We never learn his name and the credits list him simply as "Driver", so that's what we'll call him.) He works as a mechanic in an auto shop owned by Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who also gets the Driver work as a stunt driver for the movies. Shannon has made a deal with Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) to buy a stock car in order to form a racing team with the Driver at the wheel. The Driver also takes work as a get-away driver for heists. He has very specific rules for this and he distances himself from the crime, only doing the driving. Driver strikes up a conversation with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and after she brings her car to the garage, he begins to spend time with her and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Irene's husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) has been in jail and when he's released, thugs immediately begin to intimidate him. Driver offers to help him, opening himself up to a world of emotional pain.
As essayed by Danish Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Iranian-born screenwriter Hossein Amini, Drive is an interesting hybrid of conflicting philosophies. This is a drama disguised as an action movie. As played by Gosling, the Driver is the strong and silent type -- a man of few words. Like the heroes seen in many westerns, he likes to do things his way and he likes to be left alone. However, he makes a connection with Irene, clearly something which is out of character for him. This takes him out of his comfort zone, causing him to take risks. This leads to dangerous situations and a world where no one can be trusted. These aspects of the film deal with many archetypes -- along with the quiet hero, we also have the trust sidekick (Shannon) and the mobsters.
But, that's not to say that Drive doesn't deliver on the action. The film opens with something which we don't see very often -- a low-speed car chase which involves a lot of hiding, and strategic driving. Later in the film, we get to set-piece car chases which offer good camerawork and good stuntwork. Once Driver gets involved with Irene's husband, he becomes a man of action, and there are two scenes which offer brief, but intense violence.
All of this may sound pretty pedestrian, but the thing which makes Drive unique is the pacing and the tone. Despite being a movie with some action sequences, much of it moves very slowly. When the actors speak, it is very deliberate, and they often pause for several seconds before they begin their dialogue. Some shots have no dialogue whatsoever. Scenes which would only last seconds in other movies are stretched out for minutes here. It's obvious that Refn has attempted to make an action film on his own terms.
Does this experiment work? For the most part, no. The slow dialogue borders on ludicrous at times and I can only imagine that David Lynch loved this movie. The same goes for the driving montages. However, one element which does work is how the slow pace is juxtaposed with explosive violence. The first real scene of violence in the film is a shooting. The gunshots seem incredibly loud when compared to the quiet nature of what we'd seen thus far, making the moment very jarring. (The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Editing.) However, there are too few of these moments in the movie and the familiar story combined with the languid pace make for a film which is interesting, but not always entertaining.
Drive shows that people in L.A. don't notice a bloody jacket on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Refn may reject some Hollywood ideas, but he's shot the film in a very slick style and the image has a nice crispness to it. The colors look good, although they are never bright, as the movie has a dark look. However, the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a nice amount of detail and the depth is very good. Overall, a very good looking transfer. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, the sound is very important in this film and the track does it justice. The Tangerine Dream meets John Carpenter score also sounds fine and never drowns out the dialogue. The stereo effects are very good, showing nice separation. The surround sound effects are excellent during the car chase scenes, and we feel as if dueling cars are all around us. The subwoofer effects show off during the car chases and they add extra power to the gunshot scene.
The Drive Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "I Drive" (5 minutes) examines the film's main character. The filmmakers and the cast talk about the "Driver" character and how his demeanor lends itself to the simplicity of the story. They than talk about the director's style. (We learn here that neither the director nor the writer drive in real life.) Through an interview with screenwriter Hossein Amini, "Under the Hood" (12 minutes) examines the film's story and the way that the film opens up the story from the novel. We then here from the cast (sans Ryan Goslin) about the characters. Carey Mulligan talks about her character and the film's unique love story in "Driver and Irene" (6 minutes). "Cut to the Chase" (5 minutes) examines the stunt work in the film, and we learn that Gosling did some of his own driving. The bulk of the piece looks at the two car chases from the film. "Drive Without a Driver: Entretien Avec Nicolas Winding Refn" (26 minutes) is a long interview with the director who describes how the movie came together and the production of the film. Refn speaks very openly about how he first met Gosling, how the movie got off the ground, and what the shooting was like.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long