Drive is an American gangster thriller from 2011, but in describing it as a "gangster thriller" (or, I might have said, a "heist thriller") I'm failing to convey the fact that this is a film of power and subtle emotion, all the better because it is under-stated from start to finish. I really enjoyed and admired it. Much as I'm keen on whodunits and classic mysteries, my enthusiasm for crime fiction has a lot to do with the variety that the genre offers. This film is nothing like Dorothy L. Sayers or Jonathan Creek, say, but it's perfectly possible to admire DLS and JC and also to love films as good as Drive.
A great deal of the strength of the film probably comes from the source material, a book of the same name (which I haven't read) by James Sallis. Sallis is an acclaimed poet, and there is something lyrical about this story of a young man who works in a garage in Los Angleles and works part-time both as a movie stunt driver and as a getway driver for robbers.
Ryan Gosling plays the Driver, and the excellent Carey Mulligan is his neighbour in a rather miserable block of flats. She has a young son, and her husband is away in prison. A platonic relationship develops between them and when the husband returns home, he and the Driver are drawn together by their mutual devotion to Carey Mulligan. When she is threatened by gangsters, the Driver determines to protect her and her son, whatever the cost.
Drive is a violent movie, but in my opinion, the violence is not at all gratuitous - something that cannot be said of a great many violent crime thrillers. We do care about the characters, and that's what sets this film apart. The story is strong, and the car chase scenes well done, but above all it is the relationship and chemistry between Gosling's character and Mulligan's that makes Drive a runaway success.