It was a rainy day. I went for a drive. Ended up at ‘Drive’ the movie. For an hour and forty minutes I was in L.A. in a world I have no desire to ever live in. But like a voyeur, I found it a fascinating movie world to look in on, even if I was glimpsing it in my rear view mirror, because frankly it did not make me want to live in the ‘City of Angels’ (which is what L.A. means). If those are angels, they are avenging angels, and I want no part of them. Those are the kinds of angels that Jude and 2 Peter says end up in a supernatural jail called Tartarus. Turns out driving there leads to a dead’ end street. But I digress— here’s the official plot.
“Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). After a heist intended to pay off Standard’s protection money spins unpredictably out of control, Driver finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals. But when he realizes that the gangsters are after more than the bag of cash in his trunk-that they’re coming straight for Irene and her son-Driver is forced to shift gears and go on offense.”
First the disclaimers. A movie for kids this is not. A movie for Christian families with kids, this is not. A movie for the squeamish when it comes to violence this is not. If Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ caused indigestion while eating popcorn, this movie has moments that will do the same. At the same time, this film shows the wickedness and brutality and life-destroying power of all violence, and frankly that is a good thing. The reviewers are saying this film will get some Oscar consideration, and I agree. It is a powerful film. You may ask— How can a film about vice have virtues? Well, in fact it can, if for no other reason that it reminds us to ‘go and do otherwise’ rather than being tempted to ‘go and do likewise’.
Firstly, this film is a morality play, as are most all mob movies. Things always go wrong, not as planned. Wicked actions always have unintended terrible consequences. It makes you believe we really do live in a moral universe. And that is a good thing.
Secondly, the cinematography in this film is spectacular, the camera simply fixated on Ryan Gosling, and to a lesser degree on Ms. Mulligan. It does indeed remind one of the old TV series Miami Vice, and so does the music, though it is a bit less synthesized than Maroder’s Korg marauders. I almost expected to hear ‘In the Air Tonight’ in some scenes. The nighttime aerial photography is spectacular. It almost makes one want to spend more time in L.A.—- welllll, almost.
Thirdly, Ryan Gosling establishes himself as a true James Dean type. Strong, silent, and an incredible driver, and a gear head to boot. In fact he is so silent, I’ll bet his entire dialogue in this movie amounts to about ten pages of script. The boy doesn’t say much, he just drives. But that in itself speaks volumes about him.
Fourthly, Albert Brooks is excellent in this film. In fact you could say he is ‘wicked good’ and mean it. A stylish crook, smooth talker, but in the end, willing to resort to ‘whatever means necessary’ to maintain his life in the style to which he is accustomed. None of the characters in this film, except perhaps Irene and her child, are all that likable, but the film does highlight that in the midst of the darkness, there are some redeeming features to the ‘kid’. He has a good heart…. he also has a violent one. Here again love and death are effectively juxtaposed.
Lastly, precisely because there are moral consequences to immoral actions, even our anti-hero does not have things turn out as he would like. Indeed, he has to get the heck out of Dodge. Just drive kid, just drive. The problem is— wherever he goes, there HE is. You cannot outrun yourself, but you can drive yourself crazy. Think about it.
Afterwards, I was glad I could drive home. The Kid??? Not so much. He has no home, he is that part of all of us that is on the lam, running away from the consequences of our actions. Just drive.