‘Drive’ review – A slow film about a man who goes quickly

On Saturday night i finally got around to watching the film Drive.  I’ve heard a lot of fuss about this film, comparing it to classic driving movies such as Vanishing point, the French Connection, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Death Proof.  I love all of these films –  a good driving movie is perfect popcorn fodder, not to mention the fact that the genre is normally replete with excellent anti-heroes.  i mean Kowalski isn’t referred to as the last American hero for no reason.  He is a snarling, amphetamine taking, crazy driving, unwashed throwback to the crashing end of the 60’s.  His mission a statement on the political era it was based in.

I had heard that Drive beat a similar path.  I had also heard that the first 20 minutes of the film were virtually silent.  I decided that this factoid might be best kept to myself, as it would be nigh impossible to persuade my significant other to watch a driving movie with no talking.  So.  Minor deceit complete, excitement levels high, i slid the blue-ray into the PS3, and hit play.

Drive is not Vanishing Point.  Drive, is, in fact, pretty much the exact opposite of Vanishing Point.

This became clear when he went to run his first job in in the film.  The protagonist is a stunt driver who occasionally takes jobs as a getaway driver.  He has rules for his clients – i am yours for 5 minutes.  miss the window, unlucky.  Promising.

Then the job starts.  His car is shiny.  the thieves run out and get into the car, and the chase begins.  Excellent, i think, time for popcorn and handbrake turns and….oh.  wait.  This car chase appears to involve driving sensibly.  at some points, he just stops.

Now i appreciate that this is probably a more realistic version of the getaway, but it just sort of reminded me of the Eddie Izzard sketch comparing British cinema to American.  The popcorn only makes it halfway to your mouth before you throw it back in disappointment at the snooze fest you find yourself watching….oh…I….oh.

And this to me was the real problem with Drive.  I was bored.

I understand that the director may well have been trying to make a more intelligent film, but he’s skipped all the potential to make Drive more than a one trick pony.

Let me put it another way.  Drive is a slow film about a man who drives quickly.  How slow?  You may be familiar with shot construction rules, you may not be.  Try this – watch TV.  It doesn’t really matter what you are watching, just get some on.  OK.  Now count the duration of the shots.  Normally you’ll find something around 2 seconds per shot. There is movement in longer shots, to help keep the momentum that you get from sticking together a series of short shots.  Now, while watching Drive, it occurred to me that it seemed visually slower than usual, so i decided to time the next shot.   This happened towards the end of the film, but is a fairly good indicator of how bored i was at that stage.  How long was the random shot i decided to time?  22 seconds.  i’ll say that again – 22 long, dull seconds.  it was like the cinematographer had specifically set out to give people the time to REALLY watch the amazing shot he had constructed.

Yawn.

Another thing that bothered me was that the report of minimal dialogue for the first 20 minutes was inaccurate.  There was, in fact, dialogue.  it just wasn’t particularly interesting or engaging dialogue.  I began to think that rather than being a film about a driver, it was a film about a man with a crippling social condition that precluded him from making basic conversation. Ever.  When he got a love interest,  I found that I did not particularly care about it,  other than hoping beyond hope that it might lead to a car chase.  Preferably with someone strapped to the bonnet of the car (thanks Death Proof)

No dice.  No car chase.  in fact, driving takes a bit of a backseat (hur hur) while he goes off stamping on peoples faces until their heads pop, and having a hammer which he holds with a REALLY SHAKY hand to show us all how unhinged he is, and other things that i didn’t really care about.

I think the point had to be that actually, as a driver, the majority of the protagonists time its about keeping control and composure, until he attempts a stunt, or a sudden visceral accident shatters the illusion of control that he maintains.  The brief moments of extreme violence echo this approach to portraying the loss of control he feels.

So.  the violence is like a car crash.  Driving is largely sedate, and this guy with a scorpion on his back is flirting very badly with some woman and her ex.  what would really round this off?  oh, i know,  how about some really awful 80’s sounding music.  Actually, scratch that, we’ve spent all of our money on this cinematographer who wants the world to see his long drawn out shots of the sun, is there any way we could get away with just, you know, buying 3 songs and then playing them over and over again?

Seriously.  i haven’t been this annoyed with the music from a film since i watched midnight cowboy (argh buy another song). i understand that you want a theme for your film, but sometimes variety is good too.  Especially if the rest of your film is, to put it gently, a bit dull.

So, to sum up.  i didn’t particularly like this film.  True, it was nicely shot, and true, it can be nice to have an alternative to all the explosions you get with mainstream cinema, but there are just too many negatives to enjoy it.

I will not watch drive again, and i don’t even care about it enough to google the name of the main character.  Sufficient to say, it wasn’t Kowalski.

Oh yes, and just to prove there’s no gender bias here, my girlfriend hated it too. A lot.

Drive – 2.5 car crashes out of 5

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