45. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Drive

July 12, 2018

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay: Hossein Amini
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks
Runtime: 100 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 2011

 

★★★★★

 

Nicholas Winding Refn’s filmography is littered with examples of rip-roaring genre exercises reinterpreted through an art-house gaze. Although rarely perfect pictures, they are testaments to a filmmaker who never allows his own passions to shake his focus on unique and visceral productions.

 

Drive, like its companions, is a bluff picture; it sells itself as a nuts-and-bolts thriller while slowly lifting up the bonnet to reveal the stark canvas that lies underneath – then it slams your head in the fender, repeatedly. It’s a far calmer and more character focused picture than you’d imagine, selling its hero as the only figure out of his own world; the walking trope in a world of rich companions and enemies who all have to cater to somebody out of their reach.

 

Its story is small but it’s only as large as in needs to be, with a screenplay that never waists a line or space of time without purpose. The Driver speaks little but what more needs saying that the world can’t simply show to you. Once again, Refn’s visual eye and work with cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel is something remarkably unique, lying somewhere between Roger Corman and Gaspar Noé. Bursts into sporadic, graphic violence only serve as a reminder of the sloppy coarseness of reality; none of it is glamorous or pleasant to watch and leaves its mark on the people who surround it.

 

Drive will probably be remembered by the majority as his finest accomplishment. Arriving at just the right time to the wrong crowd, its bizarre and unique identity allowed it to burst from its cult shackles into something approaching its own movement. A generation may grow-up seeing Refn as their own Tarantino; an inspiration to yearning young filmmakers who will try to emulate, but never recapture, the essence of what has unfolded here.

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