Monthly Archives: September 2011

Drive Movie

Don’t drive in, drive out and away from this new movie, out in US, Australia and Britain within a week.

This was a film I saw by default, after thinking how unappealing the trailer looked. I was at Cambridge Film Festival yesterday and it fitted with my schedule. I was faced with two violent matinees – one that looked miserable and harrowing and perhaps even boring; and one that might be exciting. The cinema staff thought that Drive’s violence was of shorter duration. And so I thought it to be less of an ordeal and possibly more enjoyable – it did after all promise to have some kind of love story.

There is also anticipation around the new Ryan Gosling film, but I am curious to know why this got selected for a wide general release over another violent thriller also out in Britain this month – Kill List. Is it the Cannes win or the Tinseltown setting? Both have strong reviews, and yet Kill List has a tiny theatrical release. Who makes these decisions on the behalf of the public about what they will want to see? That is a rhetorical question. It actually is an extension of the nanny state – our culture and entertainment are being preordained along with so much else in society – and often money and puppeteers are behind both decisions.

Drive is about people outside of the system and one might think that to a definite non conformist, that might appeal. Little else did, although the first part of the film was reasonably interesting. I even wondered if the brutal action trailer did the film a disservice. But that was all to come.

I read several reviews after seeing the film to see if I have somehow missed something – or just in the attempt to understand why this film finds an audience.

It has nothing to say about the world; it wasn’t a well crafted portrayal; I didn’t care about anyone really in it; it was not even exciting. All that was stomach tensing was wondering when the next bit of unnecessary horror would be inflicted.

Little White Lies magazine gives this film several sections in its most current issue. It speaks of Drive as a fairytale – but I fail to see how a gritty drama set in modern LA can have any legendary qualities, and bloody, wheelspinning protagonist Driver was far from the magazine’s notion of being a chivalrous knight.

Little White Lies praises the film for its  ‘stunning’ violence, and qualifies comments on it by making clear that they are not ‘squeamish’. But who wants to be able to watch horrid ways of attacking people without flinching? Who is proud to not have looked away? The shift in such a boast is from showing toughness in children to proving liberalmindness in adults. It is impressive in neither.

There are two reasons that may justiffy being explicit with violence. One is to show us the reality of an actual  situation that is not commonly addressed or known – such as war or abuse. The other is when the plot demands that an act of horror be fully understood to make sense of what follows.  The film I turned down yesterday – As If I Am Not There, is about the sufferings of Bosnian women who are captured and abused by soldiers. I spent some time looking this film up, wondering if I had made the right viewing choice, and deliberating on the point of delivering such a harrowing film. 

In Drive, there is frequent violence in a make believe story which neither highlights real life plights or shows something essential for the plot. Those acts of brutality were all invented, something as a writer I would be ashamed to share publicly if I had imagined those things. Is this really our idea of cool, as so many reviews say? Shouldn’t this be worrying?

Delving into dark psyches and amoral situations occurs all too often in film. Do we need to explore it again? One might argue you can trace the trajectory of a man’s journey and that something vaguely good is done in the end. It’s a weak argument. To see Driver’s final act as a kind of sacrifice is far too noble a concept to apply to the butchery he does. I do not see Little White Lies‘ view that antihero Driver is seeking purity and grace – he is far from finding either: such concepts did not enter my mind. He is not, as the naff bouncy signature synth song says – a real hero or a human being. I’m not interested in heists, threats, stunts or hitmen. I was drawn by the portrayal of nascent love of Driver and neighbour Irene, but I was more repelled than she was when Driver turns a kiss into a headmash.

Note I haven’t talked about the cast or the overhyped director, who I passed up the opportunity to meet after the screening. I’d had quite enough of the film and had no wish to hear more about a dangerous loner and those who brought him to the screen.

It’s not sexy, it’s not intelligent, it’s not even particularly interesting or original. It doesn’t often make sense, with various flaws being pointed out by others. My favourite is that it never seems to concern Driver that distinctive, blood stained jacket  is not the bright thing to wear to remain undetected by police.

Indiewire blog’s review is much more like it, and several of the comments that follow, and Ron Gonsalves on efilmcritic is also kindred.

Drive is definitely a film about jumping on the bandwagon of buzz – and there is little in support of joining in the ride.

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