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DirectorNicolas Winding Refn
Release Date(s)2011 (January 31, 2012)
2011 was a year that seemed like it had fewer solid film efforts than ever before. Instead there was an abundance of the usual big name CGI fests that please the popcorn masses but not necessarily film fans. However, two of my favorite films from that year were Super and Drive.
Drive is the story of a movie stunt car driver who takes side jobs driving the getaway vehicle for small-time heists. Along his route he meets a single mother that he falls in love with and eventually must protect from those who are out to get him and those close to him.
Right off the bat, most people who don't know anything about this film are walking into it expecting a Fast & Furious clone, when it's more of a slow-paced dramatic thriller. There's also an inclination to call it an action film, but the action scenes are few and far between while the drama of the film has much more impact than the action scenes do. The action is very good and fits the story but it isn't the star of the film. Because of Nicolas Winding Refn's fantastic direction, Ryan Gosling gives his usual stoic performance, but it works in this instance. Gosling has always been a stoic actor, especially in films like Lars and the Real Girl, but in the wrong hands he tends to come off like he just doesn't care. Thankfully, that's not the case here. It can be a violent film as well, but the violence is quick and to the point, as opposed to dragging it out for several minutes. In that regard it's more about what could happen rather than what does happen, making it a part of its dramatic build-up. The film also has a nostalgic 80's type score, which makes it feel much more like a period piece than it actually is. A strong effort was also put into the cinematography and sound design, making use of color, light and sound that has much more of an impact as a viewing experience than your typical so-called "action" movie. To be succinct, Drive is a well-made film. It will likely split general audiences because of its slow pace and being light on the action, but if you're looking for a well-made film with an intriguing story and interesting characters within a different kind of framework, then you'll enjoy Drive.
For the film's release on Blu-ray, Sony has knocked it out of the park once again with this transfer. Drive looks amazing in high definition, especially as it's sourced from digital. The contrast is deep enough (maybe too deep for some) to show off image detail perfectly. Blacks are completely solid while the rest of the color palette is quite vivid and lush. The majority of the film takes place at night with a lot of dark golden-looking shots from passing street lights, as well as other colors from various glowing sources. There's also some impressive shadow detail on display. That's it really. There isn't much more to say beyond the fact that it's a perfect transfer and one that should satisfy most (if not all) videophiles. The film's soundtrack also has an enormous level of detail and clarity. Stemming from an English 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack, the audio is absolutely flawless AND affecting. Everything from the low rumble of car engines, car & police radio ambience and background delineation, it shows a precision that few surround soundtracks ever manage to achieve. Dialogue is perfectly clear and audible while the more violent and action-oriented scenes feature some impressive sound mixing work. To say the least, it's an immaculate presentation in every regard. There are also subtitles in English, English SDH and Spanish for those who might need them.
To supplement such a healthy presentation is, unfortunately a set of lackluster extras. There are four featurettes on the making of the film (I Drive: The Driver, Under the Hood, Driver and Irene and Cut to the Chase), an interview with Nicolas Winding Refn and a set of previews for The Rum Diary, London Boulevard, Meeting Evil, In the Land of Blood and Honey and Take Shelter. That's it. On the one hand, the lack of extras does help to boost the main presentation. With more room to breathe, it can look its best without heavy-handed compression. On the other hand, it's disappointing if you want to learn more about the making of the film. I suspect that with the attention the film is getting and the underground popularity that it seems to be attaining that we'll be seeing another release of it in the future. It may be ten years from now, but I'm sure that it'll happen. Hopefully when it does, the great presentation can be maintained and not jeopardized with a bounty of extras. In other words, let's hope it comes on a separate disc. I'd certainly be willing to pay the extra cash for it.
I don't need to go on and on about how much of a masterpiece Drive is, but I certainly could. For film fans, this is a fantastic example of taking something simple and making something incredible out of it. In different hands, this could have become exactly what most people looking in think it is, but thanks to an amazing filmmaking team, it's something else entirely. The presentation is fantastic in all respects, even if the extras are lacking. This is definitely worth your time and it should come as no surprise that we highly recommend it.
- Tim Salmons