Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
on 29 January 2015
Real score: 5 stars
Adjusted for Amazon reviewers getting it wrong: Many got it wrong but I can't score it any higher, so 5 stars.
I watched this film a second time recently. On this viewing I was almost sober and so I have a much better idea of what I loved about the film so much the first time round.
Firstly, I actually have a criticism from this viewing. The relationship between Irene and the Driver seems stilted, and frankly quite vapid. I found myself on the very edge of beginning to switch off in the period between Irene and her child being driven home from the mechanic's to their home and the little detour that entails up until the point where Standard returns. The chemistry seemed too clinical and distant, consisting mostly of some longing looks and sheepish grins with trendy (admittedly great but still trendy) music playing in the background.
I think that is the worst criticism I can muster, and I've almost certainly exaggerated its effect by isolating it. Other than this very specific fault I think the movie may be flawless. It's like an updated Blade Runner; neo-noir, tinged with the flashy neon-soaked glamour of the eighties and dystopian futurism (neon-noir, if you like). Like the second Godfather movie it portrays crime as something that doesn't pay, something that is dirty and soul-destroying, but which clearly once had its glory day. In many ways it is also a film about movies; the excitement and wonder of car-chases which are played out on screen and in reality by the Driver, but also the exploitative and seedy side, the money men behind the films of the eighties who saw it as another way of making money, along with drugs and violence. The Driver himself is both a heroic action figure and a jaded mentally disturbed criminal who has grown up in a country where the huge back catalogue of fifties noir and seventies and eighties action movies are embedded in the national psyche. We're not talking about Taxi Driver, where Travis Bickle, driving around the rain slicked streets of New York, sees himself as some avenging angel. We're talking about someone who is a real life hero who is designed for his environment, but who struggles to stay ahead, right up until the ambiguous ending, and who has to resort to some of the methods and extremities of his opposition to survive. He really lives what Travis Bickle wants to live, but in a brilliantly post-modern way this is no longer acceptable in "mainstream" society, as can be seen by Irene's reaction after the scene in the lift. It's as if the Driver is aware of both the fictional world he lives in while simultaneously being aware of the real world; like if, in Commando, Schwarzenegger suddenly took stock of the body-count and had a mental breakdown.
Asides from the philosophical fallout of the film, the style involved in bringing it to the screen is unbelievably slick and cool: the opening scene is even more brilliant than I first thought, even excepting the soundtrack; the beach scene is unbelievable; the build up of tension in the pawn shop heist; the massive contrast in every violent act that takes place in the film, between sensuality/beauty/calm and sudden and explosive violence. It is a film where we feel every violent experience, as does the Driver, as he begins wandering the streets in an increasingly bloodied silver jacket. In a atmosphere where we are increasingly told we are becoming desensitised, there is a gut response to every violent act here.
Lastly, in terms of the neo-noir elements, its nice to see a film as convoluted and complex as some of the noirs of old. Along with the Driver himself we often have very little idea what is going on, who is behind various actions and what their motivation is. This is never more obvious than in the aftermath of the pawn shop heist. Having seen the film twice I'm still not entirely sure about what happened.
Of course this review is in danger of become as rambling as I was trying to avoid. Suffice to say, Drive now has a firm place in my top ten or fifteen favourite films.