Drive

YEAR: 2011

WRITER: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn

BUDGET: $15,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $21,417,373 (as of September 25th, 2011)

i'll admit that i haven't been as frequent a visitor to the local cineplexes this year as i was, say, last year. i say that because that might help explain why it has taken till now to find a film that has definite "top 10 of the year" potential. sure, anything is possible - and i do plan on catching up on movies i missed via the dvd route, but if Drive doesn't make my "best of the year" list this year i will be very surprised.

ryan gosling plays a nameless hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire. he is a man without a past (at least not a past that we are ever told about). he is quiet and a loner. and then he meets his neighbor, carey mulligan, and her son. a bond begins to grow and when her husband gets out of jail and an event occurs that could threaten carey and her son, the driver must take matters into his own hands to protect them.

if the story and the characters sound simple and archetypal, that's cause they are. this is a "super hero" story. and it's funny (not funny ha ha, funny interesting) because just a day or so after i wrote this discussion i heard an interview with the director nicolas winding refn, in which he called the film a super hero story and a fairy tale.

while i get what he was saying about the "fairy tale" i personally kept coming back to the "super hero" thing. and even Unbreakable. now, while Drive doesn't take the same ode to comic books approach that Unbreakable does, both films are playing in that obvious and archetypal playground and doing it really well.

both films are genuine and earnest about it also. they aren't doing the ironic, winking or self-referential regular-guy-turns-super-hero thing like Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World or Super (all films that i like by the way).

i didn't think of it till a few days after i saw the film, but as the whole super hero thing and Unbreakable connection continued to play in my head another moment stuck out. in Drive's final act, as he goes after one of the bad men, he does so wearing this full prosthetic, pull-over face that he had used for some driving scene in a movie he was working on. you with me here? a MASK of course! this "ah ha" moment lead back to unbreakable and the poncho/CAPE that bruce willis is wearing when he finally realizes his climactic hero moment.

it's funny (again, not ha ha!) cause in the interview winding refn talks about his love for john hughes and such films from the 80s that were able to pull of corny and sweet. now, i wasn't thinking john hughes or pretty woman or any such films watching Drive. But it is impossible to miss the 80s reverence in the film. from the bright pink and cursive writing of the credits to the casio keyboard pop music of the soundtrack. ya, it is a little corny at times but winding refn knows it and owns it and is able to make it work.

if i was going to make any director comparisons it would have been michael mann. but not for the Miami Vice-like music and pink writing (actually, doing some web surfing made me realize that Miami Vice didn't have the cursive writing, but GTA: Vice City did - which is an ode to the 80s and Miami Vice so it counts right?). the mann comparison is most evident in how the film is able to capture l.a. at night and winding refn's use of quiet and his ability, one minute, to slow the pace of the film within an action movie and then, the next minute, create intense action and/or tension.

Drive is a film that, not only rises above the "action" genre, but above most other films you will probably see this year.