The Silent Men Speak – My Thoughts on ‘Drive’ and ’50-50′
In a time where communication is of such great prominence, sometimes people forget that there is some joy to be taken from silence. Everyone wants to be heard, and they should be in an ideal world. Even our conversations are loud and we state opinions like we are on the verge of professing something really profound. The sound of silence is becoming exceedingly rare. Take a moment. Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. All is well in that quiet albeit brief moment.
When I went to the theatre to watch Drive I did so with no prior knowledge of the film and no real expectations from it. The tickets were quite easy to get even though it was the first weekend and the auditorium screening the film was also quite empty, which in retrospect was quite fortunate because I’ve had so many films ruined by people in the audience who just cannot keep their opinions to themselves in New Delhi. To add insult to injury most people get offended when you ask them to keep the decibel levels down during the film. However, none of that annoying nonsense happened that day and it was a very pleasing experience.
The film is based on a James Sallis novel also called Drive, adapted for the screen by Hossein Amini. It stars Ryan Gosling as the driver and features Cary Mulligan, Robert Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks. The film is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, who is of Danish origin, and he has previously written and directed films like Bronson starring Tom Hardy and Valhalla Rising which stars Mads Mikkelsen. Incidentally, these are the only two films of his that I have watched. I thought both were slightly disturbing and quite unique at the time (I still do so).
Drive is about a series of incidents in the life of a hollywood stunt driver who in his free time hires out as a getaway driver to robbers and criminals in general (they don’t really specify as to who his clientele generally consists of J). He lives by himself and works at a garage owned by his friend. He then gets emotionally attached to a girl who lives with her young son. They live next door and her husband is in prison. Things go really wrong for them when the husband gets released and falls into a bad situation, which gets worse as he gets killed. The driver is then obliged to rescue the day.
Gosling’s character is indeed a silent one. When the film starts and the credits are rolling, there is a short monologue as he speaks on the phone before going on a job. He gives precise and curt instructions about how the getaway is to be executed. He only speaks as much as he is required to. After the monologue, he goes to his friends garage, gets his car for the job, executes the getaway and escape, then the credits and title song come and go. Now between the monologue and the next time he speaks properly, he does not speak for around10 minutes. He asks Cary Mulligan, “what floor?”, in one scene in the middle of the silent 10 minutes and that is it. Two words in all that time and he is in the center of all those scenes in that time.
He is silent, even to the point where he seems shy, like when he meets Irene (Mulligan) in the beginning. However, Rose (Brooks) instantly recognizes him for what he is. He knows instinctively that there is something simmering under the surface. Something that is dangerous and which should not be disturbed. Irene however, witnesses the violent side of the driver, when he is forced to gruesomely kill a mobster to protect her. His total loss of composure suggests that his latent side is indeed very potent and destructive.
The driver reminds me of Clint Eastwood in the Dollar Series spaghetti western films. The silent, calculating, smart, dangerous, fearless, but ultimately-hiding-a-good-side kind of hero. The anti-hero if you will. Oh, how I admired those guys!
The film builds up at a slow controlled pace. There are very few scenes where the pace really quickens. However, wherever they do quicken, they bolt. The chase sequences, action sequences or scenes depicting violence are frantic and graphic. They delineate from the otherwise mild progression of the film. Some viewers complained of the film being paced really slowly but I personally felt that the film was timed perfectly in conjunction with its theme. In fact the pace helped to heighten the tension in most parts where it was intended to.
The background score was wonderfully executed and I really liked the songs in the film, which are mostly electronic pop. In fact I was really drawn into the film by the opening credits song, Nightcall by Kavinsky. The music has this cool feel to it that makes you want to shake your head to its beat. It’s got a hypnotic quality really!
50-50 is another film that I recently watched after a friend recommended it. The film is directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Mike Reiser. Again, I did not have any prior information about the film. In fact, I thought it was going to be another pointless and not-so-funny Seth Rogen comedy, like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, so I was less than enthusiastic going into the film. However, it had Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a lead actor and I had been following his career for some years, so I decided to go ahead and give it a watch. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
The film is sensitive, tasteful, and very relevant in today’s world where cancer related cases are becoming more and more prevalent. It makes us feel the emotional turmoil that a person with cancer must be faced with as we are gradually drawn into the character of Levitt. The actor has really matured over the years and still has lots of potential. Seth Rogen’s role as the best friend of Adam (Levitt), is really endearing and it made me ponder if I had anyone like that for me in my life. I will not furnish you with a name at this point in the interests of not hurting the sensitivities of others who are dear to me.
Adam (Levitt) is a soft-spoken, down to earth, cheerful guy who is generally pleasing towards everyone. He has few bad habits and is probably the last guy you thought would get something like cancer. He is a different type of ‘silent’ guy as compared to the driver. There is nothing boiling under the surface here. He is just a nice guy who keeps to himself. However, he is immediately likeable.
The film, like the character of Adam, is pretty low key in that there is no overt drama or fantastic speeches to leave you with your mouth gaping. It slowly creeps up on you and before you know it, you are fully engrossed in the film. It has a subtle and yet effective style of captivating the audience. If you have the opportunity, please watch this film.
These two films are among the most notable that I have watched of late. It’s nice to see protagonists like this on the screen again. The characters are beautifully written but in both cases I’d say the choice of actors is also as close to perfect as it can get. Both the Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have done a great job and I hope to see more out of them in the future.