This movie provided the vocabulary for me and my roommates in college, my closest friends at the time. Despite the pedigree of Office Space, it seemed that no one saw this movie except for us, so it became ours, and we adopted the dumbed down slanguage of Mike Judge’s idiot future for our…
If I had to point out two trends in arthouse cinema this year, it would be the near fetishization of atmosphere and mood (THE TREE OF LIFE, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE) and a dogged commitment to minimalism (MEEK’S CUTOFF). DRIVE has both in spades. Oh, and it has Ryan Gosling, so no wonder it’s been the closest thing to a mainstream success the arthouse scene has had this year (Woody Allen doesn’t, and will never, count).
DRIVE is the very definition of style over substance, but when it’s THIS stylish and with such a uniquely informed sense of style (hey, look at all the hipsters blasting the soundtrack!), it’s really hard to care. The story and characters are so simple (minimal, if you will) that so many different allegories could be layered about it. Was it laziness or genius that inspired the choice? Who’s to know. But where thin-ness of plot is aggravating in a majority of circumstances, here, it just moves out of the way of the copious atmosphere while, contradictorily, the fable-like quality of the plot allows the audience to give it all the depth they want without the writers mucking it up.
And then, in probably the most brilliant aspect of DRIVE, there’s the violence to offset the retro-cool, synthline vibe of the rest of the movie. The violence here is as violence should be: shocking, sudden, messy, nauseating. It’s certainly my favorite part of the movie. Violence has become incredibly boring to me in films lately. It’s not that I’m desensitized (I don’t think), it’s that violence usually equals laziness (or exploitation) among filmmakers. Violence should not be easy. It should be tough, brutalizing, disruptive, corrupting. I think DRIVE gets that right (see also: CACHE and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, among others), and it’s easily the most arresting part of the film.
Oh, and just by watching the movie, you feel like a badass when you walk to your piece of shit car.
HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
UNCHARTED 3: DRAKE’S DECEPTION
THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Also, don’t forget to check out my personal Tumblr over this-a-way: http://thenatwistercomes.tumblr.com. It’s bound to hold more interest to you than whatever pretentious movie I just watched (and by just, I mean months ago).
If anyone could wrangle a world spanning, multiple storyline filled disaster flick about a realistic disease that puts the world on the verge of collapse, it would be Soderbergh of Traffic (multiple storylines) and Oceans Eleven (wrangling a huge cast of big name actors) fame. (Aside: I don’t know what is it about Soderbergh that he gets these ridiculous casts of big Hollywood actors to play some pretty small parts, but more power to him, I guess.) Contagion is a movie about a super contagious flu that becomes a pandemic spread by Ms. Patient Zero herself, Gwyneth Paltrow, and involves such personalities as Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Matt Damon, and more. I know, right?
While it’s directed with precision and propulsion (I’m pretty sure the disease itself is the protagonist of this film), and while Soderbergh smartly uses the camera to make it obvious to even the rear seats about the paranoia and real-life terror he’s pushing (just try to not think about what you touch after seeing this movie), this movie is carried by its two lead actresses playing brave women who put themselves in great danger to save a lot of lives (they would be Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle). These are two very human performances in a movie that could be seen as coldly procedural.
And there does seem to be a vacuum of real, human emotion at the center of this film (and no, it’s not Jude Law, har har), but Soderbergh wants us to fill that with OUR reactions to this frighteningly real situation. How would you react? What would you do to save yourself and your family? Soderbergh doesn’t seem so interested in his characters’ choices, they hit their expected beats and some are played better than others…he wants to put the audience in the center. It’s fun stuff in a movie that could have easily been a terrible throwback to 70s disaster movies. Soderbergh, I know you’re getting tired of the game (and that’s probably why what you’re putting out these days are so inventive and slightly subversive), but I’ll see anything you do nowadays. (If you haven’t seen The Informant!, do so immediately, it’s one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years.)