The Student Voice of Centaurus

Plus de Trois Couleurs: Drive (2011)

September 12, 2016

Warning: Though spoilers are mostly avoided, there may be a few slips.  Read at your own risk.

2011 was a big year for blockbusters.  Flicks like the last Harry Potter film and the X-Men reboot dominated the box office with almost violent power.  People flocked to theaters to watch Spielberg’s Super 8 and waited eagerly for the first Captain America movie.  I stood in those crowds, waiting eagerly to soak up some action-packed commercialism.  The flow of constant mainstream films drowned out what indie flicks there were.  Later, many of these indie films (such as The Tree of Life) would receive critical acclaim, and in many cases end up being more memorable than Captain America: The First Avenger.  One of these less commercial films that would go on to great acclaim was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.

Not to be confused with the Nicholas Cage film Drive Angry (which came out the same year), Drive is a stylish gem that uses countless pre-made movie cliches and devices, and makes them into something viciously original.  Though the film did better than many indie films of that year, it was originally booed by many crowds for being too slow and too bloody.  The film did received praise early on from various film critics, such as the legendary Roger Ebert, who called it, “A movie with respect for writing, acting and craft.”  But, despite the praise it received by some, it was mostly looked on as a forgettable film.

Forgettable, however, is a word that Drive has since shaken off without much effort.  Refn’s masterpiece has been cited as an influence for the popular video game Hotline Miami, and as one of the leading catalyst for increased popularity of vapor-ware/synth-wave music.  It certainly isn’t a movie talked about in most conversations, but its hiding in the shadows shaping many aspects of pop culture.

When I first viewed it, it was nothing like I had expected.  I had decided to view it not because I had heard about it, but because it had poped up many times before in my browser when I had been trying to reach my Google Drive.  Perhaps it was fate, planting it in my brain over the years, whispering to me Watch Drive, Sam.  And, so, I did.  I watched the trailer first, and what it looked like was any other generic action movie.  However, the trailer for Drive is infamously bad at painting the film in a true light.  I realized within the first ten minutes that it wasn’t an average action flick.  In the entire course of the film there was only one real car chase, and only bursts of violence, no real action.

The film follows the life of a man simply known as The Driver (played wonderfully by Ryan Gosling) shortly after he falls in love with his neighbor.  The Driver works as a stunt man in films an in a “garage on Wednesdays.”  Oh, and he’s a getaway driver for criminals at night.  Cruising down the neon streets of L.A. in his white coat, embroidered with a gold scorpion, The Driver just looks really cool.  A new layer to him is added once he meets his neighbor, Irene.  They hit it off instantly, and The Driver realizes quickly that if they’re going to be together he needs to let go of his criminal activities.  He wants nothing more than to be the good guy, but throughout the movie it becomes more and more difficult for him to do so.

Drive is so viciously unique for so many different reasons.  From its lack of the popular action-sequence CGI, to its almost perfect cinematography.  Its a prime example of meticulous craftsmanship.  By far one of its most important, and glamorous traits is its use of color.  Refn (whose tenth motion picture was released this past summer) is considered to be a king when it comes to color.  Even in some of his less well-made films his ability to manipulate through color is breathtakingly obvious.  Color blind to mid-colors, Refn’s films are always deeply saturated and contrasted, which gives them a unique look and taste.


Color blind to mid-colors, Refn’s films are always deeply saturated and contrasted, which gives them a unique look and taste.

Thought the film the landscape passes in between the smooth blues of happiness, to the gritty blood-reds of violence in a heartbeat, always laced with the white and gold of The Driver and his good intentions.


He wants nothing more to be the good guy, but throughout the movie it becomes more and more difficult for him to do so.

The Driver is a quiet man, who expresses most of his emotion through facial expressions and clothing.  When creating the character, Refn and Gosling wanted to paint Driver as a sort of super hero-want-to-be.  Someone, who in Gosling’s words “is a guy that’s seen too many movies, and he’s started to confuse his life for a film.”  Thus, the Driver dresses himself in his stylish scorpion jacket and prowls the street with his hammer.  Driver is almost always dressed in white of some form or another, but that white is never clean, nor pure.  This implies that, though Driver wants to be a good person (or superhero), he’s having a hard time doing so.


“Have you ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog?”

Drive is a stylish arthouse flick that revolves not on action, but the spaces in between action–the consequences of hard choices.  It takes a story that could be quite bland, and turns it into a masterpiece of cinematograph, acting, and color.  At the roots of Drive‘s formula are colors splashed across a screen with purpose, not just as an afterthought.

Drive stars Ryan Gosling, Carrey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks.  It was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, written by Hossein Amini, and features music by Cliff Martinez, and the cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel.

Drive will turn five on Friday the 16th.

Note: The opinions expressed are just that–opinions.  The power color has is real and amazing.  One of the most important aspects of color is that it means something different to everyone.  That’s the beauty of art; whether it be books, paintings, films, or music, we all feel different things about art.  We want to hear how you feel!  Email us at and tell us how you feel about color.


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