Rating: MA 15+
Distributor: Pinnacle Films
Release Date: October 27
There are car films and there are car films. For anyone interested in chrome pipes and burning rubber, any part of the Fast & Furious franchise is likely to satisfy. Drive falls into a completely different category. It’s not the custom 300 horses beneath the bonnet that powers the drama but the driver’s vintage morals.
Ryan Gosling plays a mystery man who remains nameless throughout the film. He’s a mechanic and stunt driver by day, but during the night he’s an expert wheelman for high-paying crooks. Watching ‘the driver’ behind the wheel reminded me strongly of the icy calm displayed by the career criminals in The Mechanic, The Professional and The Day of the Jackal. Gosling’s character has everything perfectly mapped out in his head, including the location of car-sized shadows to park in, as well as the precision behind the wheel to outmaneuver the police when things go wrong. But his career takes an unexpected turn when a mother and child he has befriended become the object of a mob hit. How does he balance his desire to protect them with the reality of who he is?
There couldn’t be more than a couple of hundred lines of dialogue in the entire film and Gosling misses out on most of them. Instead director Nicolas Refn draws unmistakable meaning out of the deep silences that flow between the brooding driver and the mother Irene (Carey Mulligan). The film’s brilliant self-control is boosted even higher by excellent performances from Bryan Cranston as Shannon, the driver’s battered employer, and Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose, the simmering suburban gangster. Refn includes three or four particularly violent scenes which earn the film it’s MA rating, but these are brief and only added to show the audience just how shallow the leading character’s smile can be.
Drive’s message is laid bare during a conversation between Gosling and Irene’s son, Benicio. It revolves around a cartoon they are watching from the comfort of the boy’s lounge:
Driver: He’s a bad guy?
Driver: How can you tell?
Benicio: Just look at him. He’s a shark.
Driver: There are no good sharks?
All of the good intentions in the world won’t turn a shark into a goldfish, or a bad act into a good one. The driver may smile and help carry the groceries in but he’s a violent man and just because his violence is directed towards the ‘bad guys’ doesn’t make him any better. Are there any good sharks? No. That’s an axiom Christians can get behind. What might leave them somewhat depressed is the driver’s decision that the only solution is to remove himself from the story. If he’s a shark, then he’ll never be anything else, and good mothers don’t let their children play with man-eaters. But the Gospel revelation is that however obvious or cloaked our sin is, people aren’t lost to evil. Saul was a shark, but becoming a saint only required a step in Jesus’ direction.