TFG isn’t in the business of film Reviews, nor do we profess to be professional film critics. The Nicolas Winding Refn film, Drive, however, offers a great depiction of what Forgotten Gent Represents, so I’ve offered some perspective on it.
Drive is not your typical Hollywood Blockbuster. I think much of the attention around this film is around Hollywood Golden Boy, Ryan Gosling. Sure, the attention around him is likely to provoke a lowbrow glance from some men. I assure you gents, Drive is legitimate.
The film is equal parts shadowy and gritty. It doesn’t try to be stylistic or slick, doesn’t rely on over the top stunt scenes to engage its audience. Drive, to sum it up is moody and brooding, with some shadowy elements. Think of it as an intense sunset casting a bright amber glow over the City of Industry, where not even the darkest of sunglasses can diffuse the light’s intensity. It makes one ask “What exactly is this guy’s deal?” Refn manages a very present mood throughout the film, to the point that it will cause one’s pulse to actually slow down, whereas most films try to quicken the pulse by introducing a cinematic adrenaline rush.
The film can be broken down into a handful of scenarios that subjects the character unnamed in the film, but who will be referred to as ‘Driver’ for the purpose of this review, to the motivations of those he encounters. In each scenario, regardless of the risks, Driver maintains his own motivation. It’s simply to drive. His motivation is difficult to grasp, because there has to be a reason that he is willing to put himself at risk for the benefit of others, even when the intent of those he is helping is corrupt.
Driver selflessly takes on the role of a surrogate husband to Irene (Carey Mulligan), a mother left alone by her imprisoned husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac). He takes on the role of a strong role model to Irene’s son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), who is left without his father. Upon Standard’s return from prison, Driver voluntarily becomes his ally in order to free him from his debts to the people he was working for.
The story unfolds further after a botched robbery attempt by Standard and his female accomplice. Consequently, Driver has now become involved in a world in which money, power and territory are all at stake. He also finds an interconnection in this world between his ally Standard and Shannon (Bryan Cranston), the man he works for at the local garage.
Driver is deliberate in establishing and maintaining his position by not allowing this world to consume him. His position, as it relates to the world, is directly correlated to his motivation. For Driver, it’s not about, money power or territory. It’s his will to do what he desires to do, nothing more. Driver mysteriously does not seem to devote any consideration to the fact that the work he does, and placing himself at the disposal of the world, will inevitably subject him to the will of the world.
Driver’s handling of each situation strays widely from the path of predictability. Where in most films, or perhaps every day life situations, men would utilize brawn and firepower to reconcile these challenges, Driver is alternatively fundamental through his utilization of logic and nobility to protect his own interests and motivations. This baffles his adversaries, in Nino (Ron Perlman), who uses his pizzeria as his front, and classic bad guy Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks). Driver’s adversaries are now forced into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable positions of utilizing logic to contend with their own challenges, and Driver himself, because Driver insists on returning the money he has unintentionally inherited. This is brilliantly depicted in the scene showcasing Nino’s very apparent sense of loss, and his deep pensiveness after Driver’s phone conversation with him while inside his restaurant.
Driver is thoughtful and noble, however, before using his brawn, as depicted in the parking deck elevator scene where he and Irene are suspiciously met by Rose’s hitman. Driver identifies the hitman, and abruptly sweeps Irene behind his back in an apparent act of protection. Refn, however, diverts from the path of predictability in favor of passion. Driver passionately kisses Irene for a moment before dispatching the hitman.
There is a moment of awkwardness between Irene and Driver as she processes his brutality in the wake of passion. Driver also has his moment in this scene where it appears that he is trying to reconcile his brutality within that wake. The scene borders on being over the top, but it appears to be the most clear symbol Refn wishes to illustrate, of who Driver is, and what is either lost, goes unnoticed and unappreciated in men; Principle, nobility, will, brawn, logic, and chivalry.
The point of principle is underscored at the very end where Drive predicts his own outcome in his scheduled encounter with Rose, and how the encounter actually ends. Refn was impeccably thoughtful in his construction of this film and brilliant in its execution.
I highly recommend you see it.