Drive (Blu-ray) (starring Ryan Gosling)

Ryan Gosling as the unnamed Driver

We are regularly inundated with violence and gore. That’s not a value statement, simply an observation about society today versus 30-40 years ago. I don’t know which is the better way to live but I do know that I am not squeamish about a lot of things that used to freak me out. Through pop culture we have systematically desensitized ourselves to many terrible things… which is why I find it so interesting when a movie is able to perfectly depict the gritty, disgusting (and sometimes necessary) nature of violence… DRIVE does just that. I’m not a person who believes violent movies (or video games, or music, etc) directly cause the world to be a more violent place. Instead, I think they are a reflection on our culture (and not always the one we want to see).

Driver meets Bernie - Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks

DRIVE opens quietly, with the voice of Ryan Gosling’s nameless driver reciting his rules to a potential client. Soon we witness him going to his next job, helping two criminals escape from a robbery. He is as meticulous as he is talented, which we get to see in short order as he evades the police with such ease it’s a little bit frightening. Driver works by day as a stuntman on movies and his evenings driving in real life getaways. He works for Shannon (the amazing Bryan Cranston in another unforgettable role), a down on his luck former stunt driver and mechanic who helps him with (all of) his work.

Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling

Driver meets, and opens up to, a young woman named Irene (Carey Mulligan of AN EDUCATION) who lives with her son two doors down from him. As they spend time together, Driver opens up and falls for this young family. But when her husband gets out of jail and in over his head with some local mafioso-types, Driver is forced to help her husband to save Irene and her son. It is only a slight twist on a pretty cliché premise, yet the movie keeps you pinned to your seat for the entire ride. It does this, in part, by mixing some incredibly intimate moments with some of the most intense violence you’ll ever see on film.

Ryan Gosling as Driver

Additionally, DRIVE conveys what would be pages of dialogue in another script in a few looks. Instead of quick music video style jump cuts, the director chooses to spend a few seconds longer on each take, allowing the actors to take ownership of the screen. Right from the opening moments, we know that DRIVE is going to take us to a different world. The techno music in the background as the credits roll and bright neon titles remind you, perhaps, of an early Michael Mann movie. I’m not sure if this is intentional but as DRIVE takes off the feeling changes – this is a movie that feels classic, timeless.

Ryan Gosling

This timeless feeling is owed, mostly to amazing performances from stars old and new. There are some truly unforgettable performances here, from Gosling to Mulligan and Cranston, all the way down to smaller roles like Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie (Albert Brooks), the ‘bad guys’. But we shouldn’t forget the importance of the deliberate, frenetic work of director Nicolas Winding Refn (of BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING). Refn creates, in this little two hour window, a world of silence and stillness, punctuated only by the loud sounds of car engines during a hectic car chase (some of the best in Hollywood history) and the terrifying moments of violence that lead us to wonder from where our Driver, our hero, came. All in all, this is the best movie I’ve seen this year (or for the past several). I’m sorry that it didn’t do better in the theater but you would be doing yourself a disservice not to go out and immediately pick up this film.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) Like most recent movies, this transfer is really well done. The colors are vibrant from beginning to end and the video is used to convey this minimalist dark fairy tail.

Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) This is one of best audio tracks of the year. Silence is punctuated by roaring engines and the sounds of violence. You will be sucked in (and you might even find a place in your heart for techno music).

I Drive (05:26) This HD featurette ties scenes from the movie with interviews to give a quick take on the underlying themes of the movie.

Under the Hood (11:50) This featurette offers a more in-depth look at the cast and how they approached the film. The actors add a lot of next little tidbits and backstory to the process.

Driver and Irene (06:14) This short focuses on the relationship between our two primary characters. They call it a love story pared down to its bare essentials – I think it is simply beautiful.

Cut to the Chase (04:35) This short feature gives a glimpse into the stunt work utilized in creating some of the best car chases in history.

Ryan Gosling with Director Nicolas Winding Refn

Drive Without a Driver: Interview with Nicolas Winding Refn Documentary (25:41) An interesting interview with the Director talking about his experience bringing the movie together and partnering with this incredible cast and crew. My favorite moment – when he’s trying to sell the movie to Gosling he’s “high – stoned out of his mind” but not for any reason you might think…

This Blu-ray also comes with a copy of the film via Ultraviolet Digital Copy for streaming or download to the device of your choosing.

OVERALL 4.5
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