Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.
I was supposed to watch The Godfather Part 2 this week, but then I realised that it was three and a half hours long and decided to shelve it for now until I have a weekend free or something. Instead, I tackled something that was on my Curiosity List. Yes, there’s another list other than the Pile of Shame, but the two are sort of integrated. The movie is Drive and it’s one of those films that you hear whispers of praise for, but you never get a firm grasp of what it’s all about. All I knew about Drive was that it featured Ryan Gosling driving places and that it gets really intense as it goes on. Both of those prophecies ended up coming true, but I didn’t realise what a ride I signed up for exactly.
When the movie was in its beginning phases, things were almost serene. There was a car chase at the start, but even that was rather toned down and calm compared to the usual style of cop chases. We get introduced to Driver, whose name is interestingly never revealed during the movie, and how he’s basically the personification of a lazy cat that can drive stunt cars. He’s quiet, he’s calculated and he hardly breaks his smirk and chill. He was framed by this gorgeous backdrop of wonderful cinematography and one of the best soundtracks I’ve encountered in a film before. Driver is mixed up in some shady business, propagated by his mentor Shannon, played by Bryan Cranston.
You can tell that Driver isn’t one for this life of crime and he’d rather just quietly work on cars and drive them in whatever capacity. He’s not a bad guy and this gets illustrated by his almost strange relationship with Irene and her son. He wanted a place to belong and he found that with them, with the only snag being Irene that is married to a felon. When the felon returns from prison, this is where things get blown out of the water so fast that I swear you can see a whale travelling through the air. Standard, Irene’s husband, gets mixed up in some debt he made in prison and the collectors are threatening his family, who are coincidentally Driver’s only reason to live. Driver agrees to hold up a pawn shop to clear Standard’s name and this is when he gets involved in a crime syndicate that takes no prisoners.
But, evidently, Driver takes none either.
There was such a massive tonal shift to the movie the moment Standard’s partner’s brains were shot clean out of her skull and everything went Quintin Tarantino levels of gory and excessive. Driver, the gentle soul that he is, mercilessly kills everyone in his way in order to help those he cares about and he does it in his usual calculated way. Driver went from a saint, to death itself. Corrupted by this unfair crime syndicate that is only in it for their own selfish gains and don’t care whose lives they may ruin in the process.
You can actually see the physical degradation of Driver’s hope and personality. His signature scorpion jacket is immaculate in the beginning, shining a sleek silver, but at the end of the movie, it’s stained and full of blood from his various victims. You can draw many parallels and theories based on just this aspect alone. Driver goes from someone who lives an almost too simple life and saying nothing, to something that should be feared. A veritable ruining of the innocent and the pure. It’s almost enough to anger you.
Let’s talk about the visual and auditory aspects of this movie since they pretty much made the movie for me. The scenes happen are all gorgeous and masterfully framed to the point where I just took time to gawk at the landscapes and attention to detail. The movie really gave the visuals time to shine during these slow panning shots, driving montages and set up shots. It was a movie student’s wet dream and a spectator’s one as well. The aesthetic is also worth mentioning since it’s this almost strange blend of the modern world and the 80s. Driver wears a shiny jacket with a scorpion on it, which is so 80s that it hurts. There are bright colours and glitzy locales all over the place with these sleazeball mob bosses roaming around reminiscent of drug-addled 1980s Miami.
The music was also 80s inspired through the use of synth-heavy grooves and New Wave sounding tracks. It was also extremely atmospheric, giving this almost serene feel to the scenes that was somewhat out of place during the more dramatic parts of the movie and something my ear noticed is that during the car chases and action heavy parts of the film, there was no music. I loved that so much because most action-centric movies favour that percussive momentum-based bombast whenever something action-related happens and you know precisely what I’m talking about because you’ve heard it a billion times already. To give the action scenes silence is something that you don’t see every day and it can show us that the violence that is transpiring isn’t necessarily something to be proud of.
The gore was what surprised me the most. When I saw a woman’s brains get splattered, I sat back in my seat and had a weird frown on my face from shock. A dude also got curb-stomped in an elevator later on and so many people just got stabbed. I didn’t really know if I was down with this happening but as a fan of Tarantino movies where this is basically in the formula, I didn’t mind it at all. It gave this movie a very grindhouse kind of feel during its latter half and for some reason, it totally worked. I was captivated by it and everything within this movie.
Drive is an art movie. It may not look it from the synopsis and the gore, but it’s very much a high concept piece of cinema that pushes the limit of arty filmmaking. It’s an action movie wrapped up in an artful package and it captured my heart through the whole ride it took me on. I won’t easily forget Drive and it definitely made my list of favourite action movies even though I hesitate to even call it action.
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