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141 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2012
Before watching this film you have to understand that this is an arthouse flick masquerading as a Gone in 60 Seconds type of film & if you're expecting Gone in 60 seconds or a Michael Bay type of action film you'll be soooo disappointed...On the other hand if you're looking for a smart superbly crafted methodically paced/shot arthouse film you'll adore this! I love both stupid action films & foreign arthouse fair so this film is a match made in heaven & one of the best films ive ever seen even though ive seen dozens of films like this(every cliché in the genre book is presented here but thats beside the point)...This film is in love with itself...Cant give it enough stars...For the folks who hate "Drive" i understand & i forgive
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53 of 61 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 22, 2011
With so many films still to come this year, it can be safely said that Drive is one of the best films of 2011. I am so ecstatic about this film that I'm struggling to write about it with any coherency, afraid that I may stray into ranting and raving about how great it is. Seeing a great film (hopefully) isn't a rarity, but seeing a great film of this caliber doesn't happen too often. Rarely have I left a theater so eager to turn around and watch the same movie again, my only fear being that it couldn't possibly be as good the second time. Drive shares commonalities with last year's The American with George Clooney. Both were wide releases, marketed as action films that completely defied the expectations of their audience. The biggest difference between the two is that people went to see The American expecting an action film and were treated to alienating, slow-moving, art house fare. Drive lacks the art-house pretentions of The American and those who see it expecting an action film will be treated to something much more hypnotic and memorable than they expected. I saw Drive in an all-male, half-full theatre. Before the film began, they talked loudly with each other but went completely silent once the film began and didn't seem to move an inch until the end. Even those who are likely the target demographic for the Transformers movies were not immune to the spell this film casts.

The opening sequence is one of the best in recent years. It quietly introduces its unnamed protagonist (Ryan Gosling), the Driver, and establishes his skills as one. The sequence has no dialogue except for the police transmissions over the radio, yet few scenes are as gripping and suspenseful as this one. The Driver works for Shannon (Bryan Cranston) at his car garage, getting occasional work as a movie stuntman by day. By night, he occasionally operates as a getaway driver with a strict set of rules. The Driver is neither talkative nor effusive and has no back-story nor does he require one. Whether the Driver has any capacity for emotion isn't apparent until he meets his neighbor Irene (a stunning Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio. The three grow close, but Irene's husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) soon returns from prison. This is the catalyst for the real meat of the plot, where everything goes against expectations and Drive descends into shocking violence. It's common in modern films to have a character-driven first half and a second half driven by action and violence, which is, thankfully, not the case here. The film does reveal a violent nature, yet it bleeds into this second half with purpose.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, best known for directing the Tom Hardy-vehicle Bronson, this film netted Refn the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. With a solid script as a foundation, Refn's direction is what makes this film the experience it is. It's an exercise in style that's never too flashy or too obvious. Drive is a "throwback film," spawned from various influences to create something wholly original. The protagonist is similar to Clint Eastwood's archetypal Man with No Name, the driving scenes bring Bullitt to mind, the credit font recalls Risky Business, the music recalls 80s action films, and the cinematography and overall pacing bring French cinema to mind. Its influences are eclectic and blatant, yet this is not a film that relies on these influences to illicit recognition from viewers. Drive is not an easy film to categorize, making its wide release an act of bravery on the studio's part. Even in the composition there's a bravery rarely seen in modern cinema today. You don't often see a "mainstream" film that works as heavily with extended silences, hearkening back to a time where you didn't need to spell everything out to the audience. There are long passages of silence in, absolutely no CGI in the driving scenes, and minutes into the film I was hooked. It was apparent to me that I loved this film only twenty minutes in and not a moment where I doubted this initial assessment. Drive takes risks and pulls them off flawlessly. This is a film with scenes of (literally) heart-pounding suspense and (potentially) nauseating violence that moves with such a poetic force you're afraid to blink for fear of diminishing its effect. When watching a movie I am always aware that I'm sitting in a movie theatre, but Drive is an immersive experience that draws you into the atmosphere it has created on screen and once it gets ahold of you, it doesn't let go.

Gosling is a powerful force, portraying the Driver mostly with facial expressions, physical mannerisms, and a quiet conviction. He speaks only about twenty sentences in the film and his performance validates that he's one of the great young actors working today. To think this is the same actor from Crazy, Stupid, Love only a couple months ago is mind-boggling. Gosling was robbed of an Oscar-nomination for his heartbreaking work in 2010's Blue Valentine, but his performance is so pitch-perfect that he'll be hard to ignore this time. Also on Oscar-watch is Albert Brooks, known as a comedic actor, who defies the laws of typecasting with his terrifying performance as a Jewish mobster. Brooks is scary good in this role, nearly unrecognizable and truly terrifying. He should be a shoo-in. Ron Perlman also surprises, delivering a strong performance that begs for more roles in bigger movies.

Drive eventually reaches a stunning emotional climax that is a product of its editing as well as its execution. This is a film with a strong sense of direction, setting out to be something and never apologizing for itself or conforming to mainstream Hollywood rules. This is the most surprising film to come out of Hollywood this year, bar none. Surprising because it can be found at your local corporate cinema and surprising because of how unassumingly it sneaks up on you. Drive is a powerful, poetic, moving, existential cinematic experience that far exceeded my expectations and will undoubtedly be one of the ten best films of 2011. Few films say so much by saying so little.


Before seeing Drive, I had somehow avoided all promotional materials for it. I had heard good things since it premiered at Cannes, but I had not seen a trailer nor read any reviews. Having watched the trailer after seeing the film, I urge you to avoid it. The trailer depicts Drive as an action film and will ultimately bring more people to the theatre, but it also spoils nearly every surprise and almost every scene. While the biggest surprise of Drive is how different it is from how it's depicted in the trailer, which doesn't reveal even a hint of the film's tone, your ignorance to the contents of the trailer will leave your viewing experience rewarded.
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234 of 292 people found the following review helpful
In a year in which Ryan Gosling could do no wrong from romantic comedy (Crazy, Stupid, Love) to political drama (The Ides of March) to this art house actioner--"Drive" stands as the apex of his career-changing film streak. I have, for many years, declared Gosling perhaps the best actor of his generation. Ever since he burst onto the film scene in the controversial "The Believer," Gosling has eschewed being a mainstream "star." Heck, after "The Notebook," another actor might have taken a very different career path. But Gosling, despite a couple of disappointing forays into big budget Hollywood, has remained true to his indie roots. Until now, that is. This year, he seamlessly blended indie cool with mainstream appeal. Of course, in "Drive" he found the perfect filmmaker and artistic collaborator in Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn. The two began a very public bromance and have already embarked on their next film project (2012's Only God Forgives). Winding Refn is an ultra-cool writer/director whose resume is populated by some of my favorite international hits, and he picked up the Cannes Best Director prize for this. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I strongly suggest you invest in "The Pusher" trilogy--a series of films exploring the underbelly of the Copenhagen drug scene.

Well that's a lot of build-up to "Drive." But here's the thing, I'm not going to elaborate very specifically on this movie. Anyone who reveals too much is doing the movie a complete disservice. It is a film that is best left to unfold at its own pace with all surprises intact. The movie makes the most of its seedy Los Angeles setting. Gosling plays an unnamed stuntman who gets a sideline job working for a crime syndicate boss, played by an uncharacteristic Albert Brooks. All I will say is that things take an unexpected turn, and Gosling morphs from a virtually silent protagonist into a stone cold nightmare. It's an exciting transformation and one that will linger with you. This is modern noir at its finest, but with a decidedly art-house vibe. It combines an edgy urban seventies sensibility with the man-with-no-name western allure. I think many expected "Drive" to be a car movie or a non-stop action picture, but it is essentially a slow-burn character driven piece about how far one man can be pushed. But make no mistake, it continues to ramp up to extreme proportions before the blood soaked finale.

The filmmaking is top-notch throughout. There is an exquisite use of light, shadows, neon shadings, and arresting street level views of Los Angeles which make the visual appearance of the film quite spectacular. The odd techno-pop soundtrack is unorthodox, to be sure, but somehow fits perfectly. The editing and camera work is assured and edgy at the same time. And the effects are brutal and unforgettable. Add to that a great cast, and "Drive" becomes a can't miss proposition. Gosling shows a different side here, but the performance everyone will talk about is served by Brooks. Brooks paints one of the most memorable villains on screen this year, completely against type, and will probably be looking at serious awards consideration. Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks help round out the cast. "Drive," ultimately, may not be for everyone and that's OK. Winding Refn has put together a near perfect film for adult audiences. If you check your expectations at the door, don't read spoilers, and settle in (oh and it helps if you aren't particularly squeamish)--this is a ride well worth taking. KGHarris, 12/11.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2012
The film's title "Drive" might be misleading. Ryan Gosling's laconic hero is a Hollywood stuntman and garage mechanic by day and getaway driver by night, but car action scenes, superb as they are, are sparse and low-key, compared to, say, "The Transporter." Based on a James Sallis book, the film is more like a crime noir about a mysterious man, whose past no one really knows.

The storyline itself is not very complicated. Some may say it is conventional. Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed protagonist, a driver wearing a scorpion-embroidered jacket, who befriends his next-door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). To help her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), an ex-convict heavily in debt, Gosling's character agrees to do a job for him as a getaway driver.

"Drive" benefits from the capable acting from Ron Perlman and cast-against-type Albert Brooks, but it is excellent Ryan Gosling who carries the show throughout. The film is also memorable for its nice camerawork by Denmark-born director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Pusher") using the highly stylized lighting. The film's eclectic score is also effective in creating the dark mood.

"Drive," often bloody and violent, is less about car action stunts (which are very good) than about those characters, whose fates it seems are already sealed before the film begins.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2011
Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" is the best thriller so far in a year that hasn't lacked for good thrillers. This stylish, breathlessly exciting film has the existential chic that George Clooney strove for in "The American" but didn't quite achieve.

To describe the plot of "Drive" too closely would be a crime. Let's just say that the enigmatic, unnamed lead character (Ryan Gosling), movie stunt driver by day and getaway car driver-for-hire at night, gets into big trouble trying to help a young woman (Carey Mulligan) he's smitten with. The film slows down a bit toward the middle, but only to set up Refn's big wake-up surprise that keeps the film at fever pitch till the very end.

Refn knows how to keep the audience's adrenaline pumping, and the photography and editing are state-of-the-art. Mulligan is quite touching as the woman the driver loves, and there are noteworthy supporting performances by Oscar Isaac as Mulligan's ex-con husband; Bryan Cranston as the driver's hard-luck best friend; and especially Albert Brooks in an astonishing, career-changing role as a movie producer-turned-mobster. But the ultimate impact of the film rests on Gosling's shoulders, and he is more than able to bear the weight. He keeps us guessing constantly about this character--his face often impassive but never blank--who is capable of both great tenderness and horrifying violence. Gosling has already been compared with Steve McQueen for this role, but he reminds me even more of Robert Mitchum. He looks nothing like Mitchum, of course, but he has that same sleepy-eyed intensity suggesting deep, almost unfathomable reserves of intelligence and emotion.

At one point Brooks' character talks about the movies he produced. "One critic said they were European," he says. "I thought they were (expletive deleted)." "Drive" is European--in the best sense of the term.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2013
I found a surprising amount of negative reviews on Amazon, when frankly, this was THE best picture film of 2011. Why? Because it was simple but haunting and mesmerizing. You really - felt- the film, it was very atmospheric. I found myself getting absorbed into the downtown night, lights flashing by as our Driver rode down the rode, avoiding patrols in slick car maneuvers and badassary. Ryan Gosling is our main character, he's never given a name, he doesn't need one. He is merely 'Driver', and what he does defines him and the film.

If you think this is going to be a typical action flick or thriller, you're wrong. It doens't have explosions, nor does it have the usual intense adrenaline pumping thrills - no - it's far more subtle. The beauty of the work lies in this subtlety. The director layers a story with showing, not telling, which has become increasingly rare in today's cinema scape. The plot line is not complex either, but it is far from shallow; the way the director portrays the story through the artsy cinematrogophy and well chosen sequences does more to get you absorbed and intrigued than a plot heavily obscured. And you'll also find the music itself is vital to the work, from the opening sequence where Gosling drives through the city and a well placed electro piece plays in the background, you're hooked.

If you are seeking a film that takes you elsewhere with it's atmosphere and will haunt you for days after, this is worth a shot. If you are seeking an action film such as Fast and Furious - this is NOT for you. I'd like to say this a relatively mature film as well, the violence in this is raw and all the more gruesome for it. Don't let your kids watch it, they won't understand it, and will likely be haunted in a different sort of manner. But again, if you want to watch a unique film beautiful for its elements, please try this. It is engrossing in a way few films are.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 18, 2011
I was expecting a good movie but nothing like this. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn delivers his first American film and boy does he deliver. Ryan Gosling continues his launch to superstardom as a part time movie stunt driver which supplements his day job as a mechanic. He also spends a few nights driving a getaway car for nefarious types. Carey Mulligan plays his shy, but clearly interested neighbor, who lives with her young son. Her husband, Standard is about to be released from prison. But let me not get ahead of myself. The story isn't that important. We've seen it before and will certainly see it again. What is important is the style and abdication of the traditional action thriller.

The opening of the film has "Driver" (he has no other name) working with a couple burglars in the middle of the night. When the cops are called, he monitors their communication on a police scanner. This is where most movies activate the car chase sequence. Refn does the scene in cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek style. It's brilliant as is the photography of a wet but brightly lit city. Throughout the movie, Refn and his musical director layer a soundtrack reminiscent of Tangerine Dream or something from Giogio Moroder. There is nothing familiar about the music. I suspect it is Euro in its origins. It is perfectly placed each time.

Back to Irene and "Driver". There is a scene when they first meet. Both are very quiet as is the whole movie. They don't talk much. But when they look at each other, you can see the quiet begin to smolder. It doesn't explode, but the attraction isn't hidden. When Standard (never heard that name before) is released and comes home, again we expect a traditional confrontation between him and Driver. Instead, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is very understanding. He has debts, however and Driver offers to help him pull of a heist of a pawn shop. It doesn't go well. Let the violence begin.

Like many brilliant movies (Taxi Driver, Godfather, Goodfellas), the violence becomes the antithesis of the quiet tone of the film. It is quick but extremely graphic when it comes. One of the great things about this movie is that it surprises at every turn. The tension grabs you early and rarely releases. It is not like a traditional thriller, where the action delivers the tension, then you rest when it's over. This movie surprises, so you're never quite sure what will happen next. At the same time Refn creates tenderness between the characters, especially between Driver and Irene, between Standard and Irene and between Driver and his mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Comparisons between Gosling's character and those created in the past by Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen are valid. I would also be remiss by pointing out the role of Bernie, the local mobster honcho played by Albert Brooks. The comedian gives the film yet another pleasant surprise. "Driver" succeeds on many levels. It is an elegant, violent and cool art-house thriller. And the best new movie I've seen this year.

2-1-12 - Blu ray update: This second helping on the just released Blu ray solidifies my original observations. These subsequent viewings of great movies allow you to focus on things you might have missed the first time around...or just want to see it again. Since I now know the plot (or at least think I do), can I find answers of confirm previous beliefs? The story itself is as old as mythology. Remember "Camelot" or at least the tale of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere and the knight Lancelot? The attraction between Guinevere and Lancelot is evident, but both want to remain loyal to their King who they love.

Here we have Standard who is married to Irene. By all accounts, although he made a mistake, he is otherwise a good guy. The initial attraction between Irene and Driver smolders as they don't want to hurt Standard. Their relationship is chaste but knowing he may be killed or at least leaving town, Driver acts on that attraction in the elevator. In one of the best scenes in recent memory, he plants a long kiss on Irene. Not one of those sloppy, all-over-your-face, tongue-in-mouth kisses but one of those real kisses like Cary Grant planted on Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious." This tender moment precludes a deadly confrontation with a hired killer in the same elevator.

This movie is scant of dialog. Instead the actors, especially Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan must perform with their eyes, their faces and their gestures. The 3 "car chase" sequences are all different but they are expertly done and remain great moments in the film. Albert Brooks should have been nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Bernie Rose. The soundtrack is perfectly layered.

The Blu ray transfer is perfect. Much of the film is at night, so the blacks must be black and the room should be dark. The DTS-HD sound is magnificent and at its best during the car sequences. The rumbling of the engines via the woofers and subs adds another type of musicality. There are 4 supplemental featurettes with the producers, the director, the head stunt driver and all the primary actors except Ryan Gosling who is missing for some reason.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2012
Drive completely caught me by surprise. Based upon the trailer and plot summaries such as the one above, I went into the movie thinking it was going to be just another typical action film along the lines of Fast and the Furious and The Transporter. I couldn't have been more wrong. Ryan Gosling plays a character only known as "Driver". By day he is a stuntman driver in movies and works on cars at a shop owned by his only/older friend named Shannon. At night he offers his services as a getaway driver to clients who need speedy exits after unsavory activities (such as robbing places). The opening sequence is set up by Driver's simple rules:

"There's a hundred streets in this city. You don't need to know the route. You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own. Do you understand?"

The chase scene that follows is unlike anything I've ever experienced before in an action car film. As the driver starts to navigate his clients through the dark streets with the police following behind, I was sitting there waiting for Ryan Gosling to start spewing cheesy one liners that Vin Diesel or Jason Statham and other action stars have become famous for. I was waiting for the suspenseful music to start pumping. I was waiting for---SOMETHING familiar to happen on the screen. Instead, the scene was done in almost complete silence, except for the sound of the police through his scanner and his own car radio. This technique built suspense way more than the normal high speed chases we see in movies. I found myself holding my breath at every turn. Talk about intense!

While the opening sequence was an amazing chase scene, the rest of the movie plays out more like a drama with the main focal point on characterization. Driver is a lonely, introverted man that seems to only feel alive when he is doing dare devil stunts on movie sets or taking the risk of getting caught every time he accepts a "getaway" side job at night. The feelings he develops for Irene and her son are foreign to him--driver's background is never really revealed in the movie, but you get the impression that he had an unhappy childhood or rough upbringing that has molded him into the man we see onscreen.

Although many people think the elevator scene is the turning point in the film (and in many ways it is) for me it's the motel scene with Christina Hendricks' character, Blanche. Up until then we know him as a lonely, under-the-radar type character. But this new development shows that he is an angry man, that under that cool exterior is suppressed rage just waiting to be unleashed.

There were a few things going on in this film that had me a bit confused. However, I eventually made peace with these issues once I connected the dots. Driver had a distinct jacket with a scorpion emblem on the back. He rarely takes it off, even when it's covered in blood and he walks onto one of the movie sets in front of people. I at first thought that was a bit unrealistic but after watching this movie a 2nd time, I realize that Driver is not your normal man. I'm not saying he is supernatural or anything like that, but he definitely has some hero-esque qualities about him. Like Superman with his cape, Driver has his jacket.

The music and font chosen for the credits were two other oddities that had me scratching my head at first. There was a lot of pop songs in the movie done in the style of the 80's or early 90's-- definitely not something you would expect out of an action film. The font at the beginning and end credits is done in cursive and is a hot pink color. Again, let me remind you, this is not your typical action movie.

My only major gripe with this film is the very long periods of silence. I know this sounds weird and it's hard to describe what I mean but there are many scenes where Driver and Irene just stare at each other-- or Irene would ask him a question and it would take him forever to answer back. This goes on a lot during the film and may be annoying for some viewers who have short attention spans. I won't lie, it even annoyed me the first time around because I put the movie on real late at night and had trouble with keeping my eyes open during those scenes. BUT, I do GET it. I know this was purposely done by the director. There are moments of awkward silence and just when you think nothing is going on and let your guard down, all hell breaks loose. Someone is shot, or stabbed-- you get the point. So in a way, you are rewarded for your patience. This works for me but others may find this annoying.

If you are looking for an action/drama that doesn't quite follow the normal Hollywood formula, then give Drive a chance. If you like art house films, then this is DEFINITELY a film you need to see!

Mia at The Muses Circle (Like my review? Come check out more on my blog! Do a google search for The Muses Circle)
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
OK. After reading some poor reviews, let me say that true movie buffs will find this film refreshing from a directorial view. Gosling's character is eerily captivating. The plot was solid and smart. One thing that detracted from the movie was the 80's style music (about a third of the film). Oh...and one last comment - some scenes may be too graphic for some viewers.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2012
Seriously, I liked it.

But that's to say that I like Michael Mann. Not sure if the current crop of movie critics are even old enough to remember him or his quiet adrenaline-fueled films. Pretty surprising to see a whopping 93% tomato rating - screams limited background and experience.


Director Nicolas Refn is pretty much directing straight off the Mann playbook; from shot sequence, set-up/framing, timing, choice of actor/acting style, and the all-important electro-synth soundtrack. Even the opening sequence Mistral font is a throwback to the late 80s-mid 90s when Mann was at the his peak of creativity.

Ryan Gosling does a pretty good James Caan in 'Thief', and I appreciate that Carey Mulligan stands on her own skill alone, nice. This is my first film with Ms. Mulligan and I have to say that I was impressed with her performance, she's better than Ashley Judd in the same role via 'Heat'.

Overall, not sure how I feel about this flick - other than, sure, I liked the film. But it definitely takes a knock down from straight nickel five-pointers because Mann is still alive.

Homàge or ripoff? Unclear. I'm hoping it's the former and that Refn will take the praise he gained from this production and move onto his own turf; find and express own vision.

I'll put this down as four-stars with the caveat that if you like Mann - then you'll love this intense flick. And if you've never experienced 'Thief', 'Heat' or 'Manhunter' - I strongly urge you to do so.
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