I originally saw Drive at Cannes, where I was lucky to be a part of the first public screening. The film received a raucous reception from the international crowd.
My memories of this screening fueled my answer to the above mentioned question, however I saw the film again at the weekend (it was recently released in Australia) and I wanted to re-iterate my feelings.
Drive is poetry. It’s Lord Byron at the height of his powers. It lulls you in with an astonishingly gorgeous verse, every word crafted, every line delivered with unrivaled majesty.
This electro-chrome and neon visage, all shiny surfaces, reflections of a reality we want to believe in, like the glass surface of an undisturbed lake.
It perfectly mirrors a world where we want to be, a world where we’re dashing heroes who never say more than they need to, where we live outside the law and make the world work on our terms.
It’s a world where we’re cool, so fucking cool it makes you shake your head in disbelief. We’re in awe. We’re outlaws who get the girl.
And then the ripples start to appear in that glass surface. More ripples follow. There are huge eruptions as increasingly large objects break the surface.
In the blink of an eye, our mirror is shattered. Our hopes and dreams torn out from under us.
The skill of screenwriter Ameni, producer/star Gosling and director Refn, is in drawing is so wholly into the fantasy, and then tearing that fantasy to shreds.
Gosling plays us for fools. He’s cool, he’s precise, he lives by a strict set of rules. He sits there grinning like a god damn puppy dog, just happy to have someone to play with, and we fall for it, hook line and fucking sinker.
Because The Driver is not a puppy dog. The Driver is a fucking H-bomb. A barely contained vessel of burning rage, his cool, harmless persona an act so good he’s fooled himself along with every other poor sap.
Our hero is a monster, and they pushed, and they pushed, and they pushed.
You tease the dog long enough and it’s going to bite you. You tease a werewolf and it will rip your fucking head off, or kick it off, in this case.
Once the veil has slipped far enough, it can’t be made to fit again. And we know this, and it’s breaking our hearts. We wanted it to work. We wanted this immoral, imperfect creature to find love with the simple girl next door and her gosh-darn-adorable-kudos-on-the-casting kid.
But this isn’t beauty and the beast, this isn’t a man wearing the skin of a monster, this is the opposite. Instead we have Mr. Hyde drinking a potion to become Dr. Jeykll, to appear normal.
Once we’ve seen his true face, once she’s seen it, there is no return. No redemption. And he knows this. And our hearts are bleeding for him. Because he’s trying. He’s found something more important than himself and he’s willing to die to protect it.
And herein lies the genius of storytelling; this is a morality tale. The guilty can not go unpunished, even when one of the guilty parties is the man we’re rooting for. It’s simple, The Driver has to die. But not until his work is finished. Not until he’s made the world safe.
The problem is he doesn’t die. He doesn’t die and that wasn’t part of the plan. And we’re saps because we’re sitting in our seats hoping that when she knocks on his door that she’s going to be there. That they’re going to be together. But our heads know better; he’s a bad man. He’s only going to bring death and pain. and he knows this better than we do.
So he does the only thing he can do; Drive.
If only more films were this brave, this confident, this well-executed.
Drive is poetry, pure and simple. It’s majestic, tragic, heart-breaking poetry; filmmaking of the highest order.