About 30 minutes into Drive I knew I had made a mistake.
What had I been thinking, bringing a corridor neighbor from my work, the middle-aged secretary of the board, who hadn’t been to a theatres for years?
I saw her curled up in a fetal position, hands firmly covering her face. When the movie was over she turned to me and giggled in what obvious was a shock reaction.
“Well now you could perhaps tell me what happened?”
Searching for a companion
It was greed that had led us there. I don’t do downloads, which makes me a frequent cinema visitor. Unlike the main character in Up in the Air I don’t have a full deck of top level bonus cards for loyal customers. But I have one gold level card, and that is for movies. Because of this I sometimes get hold of free prescreening tickets, and this was one of those occasions. I had fetched two like I always do, assuming that I’d find someone among family and friends who would like to come with me. This turned out to not be so easy though, people being busy this night or just not having an interest for Drive.
As I got closer and closer to the showing my desperation increased. The idea of not using this ticket for anything but as a place to put my jacket felt like a waste. If you have a ticket for what you think is a good movie – even one that you haven’t paid for it – it’s your duty to make use of it.
I had almost given up when I noticed that the board secretary was working late. Perhaps she could be a candidate? After all we used to talk about things such as opera, art exhibitions and ballet. At least she had showed a general interest for culture and arts. That should be enough, surely?
I introduced the movie to her, stressing how much claim it had gotten by the critics and that the director had won a prize at Cannes. This certainly wasn’t a dozen-movie. And the leading actor was supposed to be so handsome! I also mentioned that it was known to be violent though, as a disclaimer, just to make sure.
She didn’t seem to object too badly. “As long as it’s exciting”. Thrillers should be that. Action and stuff”.
I assured her that she’d get “action and stuff” and so we went and found ourselves being the only middle-aged women in a salon packed with 15-20 year old boys.
It began smoothly, with a superbly staged cat-and-rat-style car chase. I’m usually not a fan of car chases; most of the time they mostly serve as fillers and I can’t wait for them to end. But this one was something completely different. Elegant, neat and tense at the same time. I had the feeling I was going to like this.
The movie went on for a while, where got to know a little bit more about how Ryan Gosling’s tooth picker munching stuntman and car mechanic lead his life and we could even enjoy a little bit of budding romance between him and his neighbor. It wasn’t particularly disturbing or violent, but I held my breath because I suspected that those warnings about a violent content had been warranted.
And I was right. More or less from one moment to the other, the movie tipped over and suddenly there was brain substance all over the screen and we got to know exactly how it sounds when someone is jumping on a human head until it collapses.
The secretary gasped and hid in her chair. And I felt how the responsibility started to weigh on my shoulders.
Usually I’d label myself as “squishy”, feeling uneasy if someone as much as slaps another person in the face. But this time I needed to keep my fingers away from my eyes as much as possible. After all someone needed to see what happened so that she could tell the other one about it afterwards and there was no doubt about that this person needed to me.
So I told myself that my sensitivity was just something I imagined. I was already doing the ride and I could as well try to enjoy it.
Did this act of self suggestion work? Well, fairly well. I managed to keep my hands under control and watch most of it, and I could share details with the secretary afterwards such as “I and then he took a hammer and a nail and threatened to hammer it into the other guys head” (even if I’m unsure of if that was any helpful to be honest.)
So I got through it, but what did I make of it? Well, there are two things that keep it from getting a 5/5 rating from me. One is – surprise, surprise – the excessive violence. While I understand why it’s there, I wonder if it still wouldn’t have been possible to tune it down a little. Just a tiny little bit. I don’t think it would have lost anything. You don’t need to show everything straight on in the picture to make us “get” what is happening. We see a brilliant example of this: a fight scene that is only displayed through the shadows on the ground. It’s a beautiful, elegant and efficient solution. A little bit more of that creative thinking maybe could have saved us a little bit of brain substance.
My second minor quibble is about one of the supportive actors, Ron Perlman, whose gangster felt a little bit over the top to me. But it’s really just a minor thing and I bet there are many who would disagree with me.
Drive is one of the best films I’ve seen in a theatre this year. Violent or not, it’s so incredibly well crafted. The story isn’t original, but the execution is, and that was what I told the theatre staff who was standing outside the cinema, asking us about what we thought of it.
The next morning I met my colleague at the coffee machine and I looked anxiously at her face for a sign. Had she dreamed nightmares all the night? Had I caused her such a trauma that she’d never go to the movies again? Was she angry with me? But I needn’t have feared.
Her eyes were excited as she smiled to me.
“Wow, that movie we watched last night… it was really… quite something! So different! I’ve never seen anything like it before!”
“Me neither”, I answered, truthfully.
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, US, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5