“Drive” is several movies at once:
1) A slick action film with car chase sequences to rival any of the muscle car, musclehead predictable silliness,
2) A character study of people who are slow to speak, and not quick to smile, even in greeting one another, are almost devoid of small talk, and are comfortable with long silences. In this way, it’s almost like an old Western.
3) An examination of stunted emotional growth. All of the characters live so much inside their own skin that they’re almost incapable of considering the consequences for anyone else, which, of course, creates a lot of chaos and heartbreak.
4) An orgy of raw physical violence, almost akin to a slasher film, with spurts of blood, face covered in blood, bleeding out on the floor, sudden stab wounds, a sharp knife plunged into the eye, faces blown away at close range, even literally kicking someone’s head in until it’s nothing but a bloody pulp.
5) A careless display of nudity among the extras, where dancers in a topless bar dressing room just sit around with their shirts off staring at people who are arguing in front of them, and we stare at them, as if their being unclothed meant no more to them than……the fact that they spend their lives with everybody in the room staring at them. Ah, but what if we didn’t?
6) A frustrating offering of completely unrequited love. The main character claims, at the end, that the best time of his life was when he was with her. And yet all they did was hold hands, once, at her instigation, and kiss, once, at his, which was actually just a calculated distraction prior to yet another slaying. Where’s the love?
And yet, we cannot quit looking at Ryan Gosling, as the main character, even if he is devoid of any emotion except anger. Nor can we stop looking at Carey Mulligan, who somehow manages to convey emotional depth by her mere silence, by an anguished glance, eyes suddenly brimming with tears, a tightening of the jaw and the pursing of the lips. This actress’ acting adulation is well-deserved. Throw in a smarmy Oscar Isaac, a mincing Bryan Cranston, a cheesy Christina Hendricks, a grotesquely menacing Ron Perlman, and a calculatingly cruel Albert Brooks, and you have a secondary cast worthy of a film school project, a greasy garage full of smelly caricatures.
The tempo and the lighting and the pacing are so carefully controlled that you’ll feel manipulated, but, like the classic horrific car crash, you can’t take your eyes away.
It just won’t capture your heart.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephens Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas