Blog Directory CineVerse: Proof that there's still fuel in the noir tank

Proof that there's still fuel in the noir tank

Thursday, January 16, 2020

There's no lack of pulse-pounding suspense and gripping action in director Nicolas Winding Refn's stylish heist drama "Drive," but there's certainly a dearth of dialogue and character development--although not necessarily at the film's expense. We got in the passenger seat and took a ride with this picture last evening at CineVerse and came away with these conclusions:

What did you find memorable, surprising, offbeat, or even puzzling about Drive?

  • The casting. Ryan Gosling isn’t your stereotypical action hero type; he has demonstrated tenderness, mystery, nuance, and aloofness in other roles. Here, he plays a silent loner capable of sudden and extreme violence as well as compassion and sensitivity. Albert Brooks is also cast against type: he’s not funny in the least in this role, but it is been suggested that his character is more sympathetic because of the positive and humorous memories we associate with him in other roles.
  • Arguably, there’s style as well as substance. The plot is pulpy and satisfying, but the design, aesthetics, direction, and editing are “cool, distant and riveting,” according to reviewer Randi Cordova. “Refn’s deliberately icy style gives it a sleek, contemporary edge.”
  • The film has a throwback feel to its direction, as well. Village Voice critic J. Hoberman wrote: “Drive is nominally set in the present day, but the 40-year-old director elects to emphasize the retro—or rather, to evoke the period of his adolescence, synthesizing Miami Vice‘s languid dissolves and neon-limned dive bars, Blade Runner‘s nocturnal skylines and floating overhead angles, Top Gun‘s slow dollies, and MTV-friendly lyrical montage interludes…the soundtrack is awash in mournful, exalted, romantic techno-pop.”
  • This picture is exceedingly violent in some scenes, which can surprise many viewers.
  • It plays is a neo noir – a contemporary crime film with stylistic noir elements and conventions, including a femme fatale leads men to danger, a doomed lead antihero character who can’t resist his impulses, sudden violence, underworld figures, and dark external forces.
  • The lead character is never named. He doesn’t talk much. And we only see him kiss Irene once—and the motivation for that could be to distract the hitman in the elevator so that he can engage in a surprise attack. It’s interesting that, for as much as we assume he’s smitten with Irene, he doesn’t flirt, initiate intimacy more, or play the typical male lover type.

Themes at work in Drive

  • What drives and motivates us as human beings? The title of the film as a dual meaning: “Drive” can refer to the lead character’s chosen profession, but can also point to that which makes him tick – the inner drive propelling him forward and influencing his choices.
  • What makes a “real hero,” as the song played in the movie suggests? Blogger Jonathan Lack wrote: “Driver may very well be a hero in the end, because through his violent actions, he frees Irene from her destructive cycle of abuse… In his final moments, he is a real hero, a real human being.”
  • Inescapable fate. Consider how the driver and Irene keep running into each other early on in the film, suggesting that their destinies are linked. Also, ponder how it’s possible that the driver knows his fate is sealed by the end of the story, which is possibly why he agrees to meet with Bernie and put himself in a vulnerable position; sure enough, Bernie stabs him and the driver never returns home to answer Irene’s knock at the door, insinuating that he is doomed to die or that, at least, his best life (with Irene and her son) is over.

Similar films that come to mind

  • The Man With name trilogy
  • Bullitt
  • Thief
  • The Guest
  • Le Samourai
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
  • Baby Driver
  • Taxi Driver
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Other films by Nicholas Winding Refn

  • Pusher
  • Valhalla Rising
  • Bronson

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