Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Promotion: Destiny Awaits
Win a limited edition PS4 and a copy of Destiny
Empire Blogs
Cannes 2011

Back to all blogs Comment Now


Posted on Monday May 23, 2011, 18:31 by Damon Wise in Cannes 2011

As you probably can tell from the sudden infrequency of this year's Cannes updates, the 64th festival  didn't fizzle out after the world premiere of Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life – in fact, it actually got much, much busier. Screening the same day as Almodovar's almost perfectly bonkers The Skin I Live In, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive roared across the screen and left audiences breathless. If you're familiar with Refn's Pusher trilogy you'll know a fair bit about his visceral style and fondness for extreme violence, but Drive isn't quite in that vein. Conceived as an homage to such LA noirs as Michael Mann's Thief (1981) – check out the title art – and William Friedkin's To Live And Die In LA (1985), Drive is actually more reminiscent of his two most obscure films – Bleeder (1999), which is Refn's only halfway romantic movie before this one, and Fear X (2003), a psychological thriller using music and mood to reflect its troubled hero's paranoid state of mind.

As it did in Fear X, atmosphere takes precedence here. Indeed, Drive is so 80s-tinged I thought it should come with a Carolco logo and a few fuzzy kinks to give it that watched-on-video look (Refn would prefer the Cannon imprimatur). But this is not just a Grindhouse pastiche, and neither, it must be stressed, a car-chase caper in the style of Fast & Furious 5 – as Refn and star Ryan Gosling were keen to emphasise, this is more of a God's Lonely Man story (no wonder Robert De Niro's jury gave it the Best Director prize).

After the talk-talk-talk of Blue Valentine, Drive is instantly notable for what it leaves unsaid, preferring to dwell instead on looks and stares. Quiet and brooding, Gosling plays Driver, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway guy; his deal is that you get five minutes of his expertise and after that you're on your own. Driver is a moody Steve McQueen type, always chewing on a toothpick and wearing the same satin bomber jacket, emblazoned with an image 'borrowed' from Kenneth Anger's influential short film Scorpio Rising. The surface of Driver's solitary existence is broken when he strikes up a friendship with his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son. An affair seems to be brewing, but then Irene reveals her wayward husband is coming out of jail, and so Driver retreats back into his shell. Irene's husband, though, is in a bit of a fix. He owes protection money to gangsters who are trying to force him into carrying out a robbery as payment. Fearing that Irene and her son might get hurt, Driver agrees to help him, but the job turns out to be more dangerous than he thought.

It's hard to describe what happens next because Drive shoots in so many directions. It starts with scenes of tight, low-key, Bullitt-style tension, but when it explodes into violence it does so with a splashy bravado. This is a world where cigarettes smoulder and heads explode, scored with a pulsing synth soundtrack that sounds like a sleazier version of the background music from the original Miami Vice. Gosling may not fit everyone's bill as the strong, silent type, and Mulligan is a little underused, but Drive is nevertheless an exciting. kinetic, stop-start crime thriller that plays interesting games with our expectations, creating something rich and strange from some very familiar components but never failing to deliver the goods.

Refn's film gave the last leg of the festival a much-needed adrenaline blast, and the good news is that you won't have to wait too long to see it in the UK. Icon are revving up for a release on September 30, and they may well have a hit on their hands: a stylish, sexy and intelligent genre piece that engages the brain while it gleefully rips open the arteries.

Login or register to comment.


1 Manfrendshensindshen
Posted on Wednesday May 25, 2011, 13:09
So it's more of an 80s homage? Judging by the title, as well as the theme, I thought this would be a love letter to Walter Hill's The Driver. But then again I'm certain Michael Mann watched Hill's movie (or, to be more precise, Philip Lathrop's cinematography) more than once before he made Thief, so referencing both films at the same time shouldn't be all that difficult.

In a recent interview Cliff Martinez also explained that Refn was the first director he'd ever worked with who wanted the synthesizer to sound like a synthesizer, which - to me, not having seen the movie - shows that his commitment to paying tribute to those "dark eighties" movies was rather serious. Bring on a distribution deal for Germany!

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (439)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
By Helen O'Hara

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
By Ali Plumb

Pete Docter And Jonas Rivera Talk Pixar's Inside Out
By James White

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
By Dan Jolin

H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute
By Ian Nathan

How Edible Cinema Finally Allows You To Eat A Movie
By Ali Plumb

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
By Helen O'Hara

Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?
By Ben Kirby

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
By Helen O'Hara

My Encounter With Shia LaBeouf
By James White


Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
"Have just re-watched this twice over the past few weeks and forgot how fantastic it was. I'm now des"  fire_and_water5025
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"This looks unbelievably good... wish I could afford to go!"  Roo
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Nice to know Martin enlisted another author to help in his world-building. Time to get acquainted wi"  Imperion
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
" The original Hogwarts section and what was duelling dragons (has now"  Sexual Harassment Panda
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Actually i recomend The Foucault Pendulum for several reasons, in the first place it explores the es"  andresfelipeurb
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"A great sneak peek, Ali. Aside from your confusion as to where Diagon Alley/King's Cross and Hogsmea"  bruciebonus
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"im due to go in October this year and having been before, i can honestly say i cannot wait. I agree "  kopite
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"still think it's a shame that they didn't make this in England. imagine getting the Hogwarts Express"  RX78
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"Were you actually there Ali? If so, surely you know that Marvel Land is Islands of Adventure and not"  Y2Neildotcom
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"I did the exact same thing with the books after season 1(even though I'd promissed myself to just re"  manufan
Read comment


Movies’ Most Quotable Lines

'It's Just A Bit Of Fun': Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News For Movies

Competitive Geek Baiting: Or, How To Start A Fanboy Fight

The Avatar Backlash: Evaluatin' The Hater-atin'

The Complete List Of Tired Movie Cliches

Your Favourite Animated Film

Note To Hollywood: How To Get People To Switch To Blu-Ray

Food For Thought

The Ten Moviegoing Commandments

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list

Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes
An exhaustive chronology of George Lucas' post-release tinkering

Gamescom 2014: The 10 Most Exciting Games
Zombies! Guns! Tombs! Sheep! Watch the trailers right here...

Who Is Mack Bolan? Your Guide To Cinema's New Action Man
As Bradley Cooper lines up to star as the hero, here's your handy guide to his story so far

Classic Feature: Empire Meets Uwe Boll
'I'm probably the most hated director in the world right now.'

Film Studies 101: A Film Buff's Guide To Movie Movements
Everything you need to know about cinema's key groups

The 100 Greatest Games Of All Time
You voted, we counted, and here they are: beat-'em-ups, shoot-'em-ups, RPGs, JRPGs, MMORPGs, RTSs, first-person shooters, platformers, sims and much more!

Lists Of Our Lifetime: Empire's 25 Greatest Battles
From smalltime scraps to epic struggles, these are the conflicts that have stunned cinema since 1989

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)