The scorpion jacket gag was well meta.
Every now and again you get a film that's so specific in it's intention, and so forthright in the way it goes about realizing it that it feels like someone's vision. A perspective that is so prevalent in every camera move, every cut and even in the way the actors look at each other that at a certain point, you're going to respond to it or you're not. Drive feels like one of these movies. When I watch it I see a text book example of how to make a movie through tone, a viewpoint expressed through mood and emotion as opposed to ideas and words. It's an action movie that fixes an unflinching eye on itself, and becomes more about art than entertainment. Yet someone telling me they saw a slow, uninvolving movie that didn't really do anything or go anywhere. Where people just stared at each other without speaking and was super violent for no reason. I can understand that. I just think Drive is one of those films you get or you don't, and neither side really has the right to tell the other they're wrong.
Personally, I had an incredible experience watching Drive. An anti-action movie that's clever and moving in the way it went about telling it's story, a story that even a semi-casual movie-goer will recognize as having been told many times before. But that's that great thing about experimenting with genre. In terms of what actually happens, it is a forgone conclusion. So in that sense, it gives film-makers an opportunity to delve into how it happens, through style, through character, whatever. Time is afforded to you by the thriller shorthand viewers have picked up over the years, and you can secretly make a film about loneliness.
The action hero is a perfect through-line for this, and Gosling's character isn't even afforded a name. He's simply 'Driver', because it doesn't matter who he is, it matters what he does. An expert behind the wheel, he is incomplete elsewhere, walking around as in a separate universe then those around him. Gosling fights so hard for his chaste, innocent relationship with Carey Mulligan and her son precisely because it's probably the first time he's known any kind of emotional connection, and the film's willingness to make him so ill-formed and arguably the most pathetic character in the film, lending a different coloring to the silent but deadly leading man, was something I really dug, and it lent a different perspective to the scenes of violence that inevitably came in the movie's latter half. It's not Gosling's best performance, but I loved how restrained he was, how internally he played everything, a compliment that could be extended to the movie as a whole.
Nicholas Winding Refn makes a film where the style and atmosphere does the storytelling in lieu of the script, and while this tact has produced many odious and god-forsaken films in the past and really takes a delicate touch to get right, I think Refn makes it work here, and as a result watching Drive is a hypnotic, encapsulating experience. The supporting cast does some great work here too though, and often make it so Gosling can go as far as he goes. Carey Mulligan is essentially given the thinnest damsel in distress role, but I appreciated the casualness of her character and relationship with Gosling, she was pleasingly real and her innocence wasn't exaggerated. Mulligan did a lot with just unspoken glances to work with. There is some career best work for Albert Brooks here too, the comedian/Movie star who has always seemed to be falling through the cracks, his career never really took off like it might have, yet he makes for a compelling villain, and one with enough dimensions to be more than just a plot point. Bryan Cranston comes very close to stealing the movie, in his role as Gosling's mechanical mentor, and Oscar Isaac did a lot with a little in the role of Mulligan's husband.
But like I said, Drive is a mood piece. Not without it;s flaws, there is the odd scene where the silence becomes a little awkward and the plot really is formulaic to a tee, but it's also a beautiful, melancholy study of a man who doesn't understand the world dismantle his life in the name if the first person who made an effort to understand him, with a few exploding heads thrown in there for good measure. I loved this film and the ride that it took me on, even if it wasn't the one I was expecting. Yet I totally get if you didn't. Because whatever you think of it, this a film that commits to what it wants to be one-hundred percent and that in itself is something to admire. Works even better if you click with it too.