The movie Drive, now playing in a theater near you is a mysterious and obscure action thriller starring protagonist Ryan Gosling as a mechanic and driver of the stunt, heist and motor racing variety. If you’re thinking along the lines of Fast and Furious or Gone in Sixty Seconds, think again. If the pink cursive font from the movie poster makes you think of Miami Vice, think again…again. While the film takes cues from Miami Vice with a soundtrack inspired by 80’s new wave and gratuitous scenes of violence, Drive truly stands alone in a hybrid of genres.
You’ve read the reviews here and here already so this post will take a different approach when breaking down the film. Cars take little precedence in Drive, but each vehicle serves as a reflection of the people who drive them. There’s a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu, an early 90’s Toyota Camry, a muscle car era Pontiac GTO, a 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 and a Lincoln Town Car. Let’s start with the white 1973 Chevrolet Malibu.
Who drives a 1973 Malibu? The protagonist, that’s who. Gosling’s character, who remains unnamed throughout the film, is curiously quiet and seemingly lacking any sort of personality, much like a ’73 Malibu. This changes, however, when he meets his neighbor played by Carey Mulligan and her young son. The two hit it off which is surprising because they probably only say a total of 50 words to each other the entire film. Seriously.
Carey Mulligan’s character drives a late model Toyota Camry that coincidentally breaks down when Gosling is around. Good thing he’s a mechanic. The hum-drum maroon Camry coincides perfectly with Mulligan’s role as the “girl-next-door.” Don’t be fooled into thinking she’s totally wholesome just yet because like that old Camry, she’s a little rough around the edges. Case in point, Mulligan’s husband is in jail and even though Gosling’s total lack of charisma woos her, she doesn’t put the relationship with her incarcerated husband in jeopardy. She’s reliable, just like an old Camry.
Then there’s Gosling’s boss, Shannon, played by Bryan Cranston. Shannon owns the repair garage where Gosling tinkers around. Even though he is never seen actually driving his old yellow Pontiac GTO muscle car, it’s a perfect fit for Shannon, a guy who has clearly seen better days. The GTO was launched when gas prices were cheap and V8’s were the norm, but times have since changed. It’s 2011 and V8’s are being replaced with turbocharged 4 and 6 cylinder engines. Shannon clings to the past and a false hope that he can still “make it” despite having a gimpy leg and bad luck. Shannon seems poised for a comeback like the GTO’s short-lived revival in the early 2000’s, yet some things are never meant to be.
The Malibu is Gosling’s daily driver, but for heists his vehicle of choice varies. In the beginning of the movie he drives a Chevrolet Impala during one robbery, later in the movie he gets behind the wheel of a black Ford Mustang 5.0. This is where Gosling’s character begins to change. It would be a stretch to claim the Mustang caused this transformation, yet the black and menacing car symbolizes a dark side of Gosling’s character. A side that reveals he will do whatever it takes to survive, ultimately creating the rising action of the film.
Then there’s a black Lincoln Town Car, the quintessential bad-guy-car since pretty much forever. The Town Car is a big and flashy land yacht of a car. It gives many riders a false sense of security that they’re totally safe in the backseat. Ron Perlman plays a guy named Nino who owns a pizzeria that’s a front for his shady business ventures. After a heist gone wrong leads to mucho dinero (that means lots and lots of money) goes missing, Nino is out to get Gosling. Nino, however, gets shuttled around in the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car. Are you catching on?
Drive is a movie that requires a little patience, a little suspension of disbelief and a willingness to accept it isn’t a typical gear head car flick. Despite this, it will leave a lasting impression and as a result has some critics calling it the best movie of the year. So we’ll leave you with this Mojo tip: see Drive and let us know what you think.
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Written by Max Katsarelas