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Drive (Blu-ray Review)

Every once in awhile, a film comes around that’s so hard to classify and/or nail down to a specific genre.  One can argue that 2011’s Drive just might be one of these movies.  Is it a mainstream picture?  Is it art house?  Is it an independent film?  Is it film noir?  Is it a thriller?  Is it a heist?  Is it a bromance in regards to the legendary genre of car films?  Is it a B-movie?  Well…  Would you believe me if I said it was all of the above?  Am I really that far off by making that declaration?  If I am, please correct me below in the comments section.  I promise to learn from my mistakes.   Let it be known that prior to writing this review below, this will only be my second time viewing this film that many critics herald as the number one cinematic product to come out of America last year.  So how did I feel about my second test “drive?”  Well I’m glad you asked.  Read on… 

 

Film 

Drive came out theatrically in September last year, but it began its festival debut at Cannes many months before.  It was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac and Ron Perlman.  Hossein Amini adapted the screenplay from the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name.

The movie may not have cost a lot to make (a small 10 million dollar budget), but it certainly got everyone’s attention rather quickly.  Initial reviews of Drive were very kind.  And so they should be.  LOL.  You already noticed my 5-point film score above, didn’t you?  Much praise has been given to Gosling’s and Brooks’ performances, and again…rightfully so.  Refn has even gone on record saying that said influences have came from 1968’s Bullitt.  You’re kidding me!?  That’s sarcasm folks.  Let’s just say that I think the Mustang chase scene in Drive leaves Bullitt in the rear view mirror any day, but that’s just me trash talking and not because I own that same car.  Not sarcasm!

Drive is a hard one to talk about, at least for me it is.  What’s it all about?  What’s so special about it?  That’s really the million dollar question isn’t it?  At its core I guess you can say that Drive is the story of a Hollywood stuntman (Gosling) who moonlights as a “transporter” for criminals and quickly discovers that a contract has been put on his head after a heist gone seriously wrong in which he was partaking in to prevent harm from coming to the ones he loves.  But come on.  Drive is so much more than that.  I think Pete Hammond of BoxOffice Magazine said it best when he exclaimed that Drive is “One of the most unexpected and exciting film experiences of this or any other year.”

And that’s really what it is folks.   Drive is simple and elegant, but it’s also raw, real and in-your-face.  And I think that’s why I like it so much because of that fine line it walks between a beautiful art house film (I still get goosebumps watching that hit man elevator scene) and a thrilling heist/caper.  It’s like nothing else that came out last year.   It was truly unique and best of all…there are no clean getaways in Drive.  It’s rated R for a reason.  It contains strong bloody violence (wow!…nice!), language (albeit very minimal dialogue is actually needed here to make a point) and some nudity (every good movie needs this anyway).

I mentioned minimal dialogue in the paragraph above for a reason.  LOL.  I always have a reason.  In addition to the mesmerizing score, the subtle and infrequent use of dialogue by Gosling’s character is truly, in my opinion, what makes this movie shine.  It creates an atmosphere of tension like none other.  You know how Tarantino can masterfully craft heart-pounding tension through his exuberant, but effective use of dialogue like he did in flicks such as Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds?  Well, imagine the opposite here.  Gosling’s character doesn’t need to say anything.  The non-verbal cues, the musical undertones and the cinematic direction say it all.  This movie is bada$$.  It may not be everyone’s cup of proverbial tea, but it certainly got my attention last year and millions of other moviegoers.  It’s a unique experience and I truly hope every one of you gives it a fair chance to win you over.  If you are a movie fan like all of us here, I really can’t see you walking away from this car ride disgruntled.  Allow Gosling and the other superb cast members’ performances to “drive” you around in this beautiful vehicle.  It’s a ride you’ll never forget.  I promise.

How about instead of me ruining everything good about the film and spoiling any key moments of the plot and noteworthy performances, we take a closer look under the hood of Drive and see how the Blu-ray presentation measures up?  You ready?  Ladies and gentlemen…start your engines!  Hold on!  Here we go!

Video 

Honest to God, I was surprised as anyone to see how incredible Drive‘s 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode looked on my 55″ viewing screen.  I kept constant watch throughout to find any meticulous flaw I could possibly find, but low and behold I couldn’t find a damn thing wrong with this 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation.  The attention to detail was always crisp, clean and rich.  Black levels were always deep, inky and accurate.  Skin tones were never blown out or exaggerated.  I did not find a single artifact of noise, dirt or even a blemish at all.  You sure this movie only cost 10 million to make?  Wow!  Every once in a while a disc hits your player and reminds you that this ladies and gentlemen is what the magic and appeal of Blu-ray is all about.  Let’s drive on!

Audio 

Machine Head said it best with their lyrics “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast.”  That’s exactly the case here.  It may not be Avatar or King Kong, but still the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track is both bombastic and overall delicious.  From the car chases to the chopper tracking from above, this is what Blu-ray dreams are made of.  Everything nuance and sound is faithfully reproduced in this sole HD track.  You want to hear bullets spray?  No problem.  Got that covered.  You want to hear tires peel out on gravel?  No problemo.  You want to hear a near reference quality track?  Now you’re talking!  I really think Blu-ray peeps are going to be impressed with this aggressive and engaging track.  It puts you right in the middle and in the forefront of the action.  Always.  And don’t forget…theres always that irresistible synthesized sound track everyone is head over heels for.  Those synthesized tones wont let you down here.  I promise.  When that 5.0 black Mustang peels out…turn this one up extra loud for the thrill ride of a lifetime.

 

Special Features 

Although the film, the Blu-ray audio and its accompanying video presentation may be spectacular, sadly to say, the Special Features department is not.  For me, I’m a fan of the movie, so I could really care less about the below bonus features, but I fear many Blu-ray enthusiasts are going to be pissed off at the lack of items on the menu to choose from here.  There’s not even a commentary.  Oh well.  You can’t have everything folks.  So without further ado, here’s what we have to work with:

 

  • I Drive: The Driver (HD, 5:26) – Cast and crew talk about their respective roles in the film.
  • Under the Hood: Story (HD, 11:50) – This one pretty much gives you a history lesson of how Drive came to be.
  • Driver and Irene: The Relationship (HD, 6:14) – This one takes a look at the romantic relationship between Gosling and Mulligan in the film and how it’s not exactly your everyday Hollywood fluff.
  • Cut to the Chase: Stunts (HD, 4:35) – Here we have none other than the stunts and car chases of Drive and how they were done on a whole new level compared to many films before.
  • Drive Without A Driver: Interview with Nicolas Winding Refn Documentary (25:41)
  • UltraViolet Digital Copy (SD) – This is about as worthless as pocket lint is to me.  Give me back my “true” Digital Copy that I can truly take anywhere.  I can’t wait to these UV copies fall the way of VHS and Beta because they are truly worthless, in my humble opinion.  If you can take these UV copies anywhere, then why can’t I watch them on this iPad I am typing this review on while flying from Chicago to Tampa?  Riddle me that!  Ugh.  Here’s hoping that Sony and Warner bring the “real” Digital Copy back.  A boy can dream, right?
  • BD-Live

 

 

Final Thoughts 

Really, the only thing holding this Blu-ray gem back is a lackluster and forgettable collection of Special Features.  Other than that, I would have no problem recommending this one as a near reference disc from the few memorable movies of 2011.  I’ll be honest.  I had to massage the bell curve here a little and give the overall score a slightly competitive edge because of the sheer brilliance of the film and audio/video presentations.  Who cares about the Special Features when you’re talking about Drive?  Sure, they would be great to have, but let’s let the film speak for itself and be happy for what we have now on the Blu-ray format.  Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  That”s the saying I’m looking for, right?  You know they’re going to double dip anyways.  They always do.  Why not enjoy Drive now?  I know I will.  Get in the driver’s seat on January 31st by ordering Drive today.

 

 

Order Drive on Blu-ray!

 

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

3 Responses to “Drive (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    I am counting down the days to own my favorite film of 2011 on Blu-ray!

  2. Matt Goodman

    Love the film, HATE Ultraviolet Digital Copies.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Drive is like fine wine.