Lives in its tactile visuals.
The story I remember reading (and I’ll link to it if I find it again) is that the original meeting between director Nicolas Winding Refn and (then-potential) leading man Ryan Gosling was not going well. Refn felt Gosling hadn’t been convinced by his pitch, and he lapsed into silence as they continued to drive around. Something about the silence, the driving, and the view out the windshield moved Refn to tears; he told Gosling, “This is it! This is the movie!”; and Gosling was sold.
I screengrabbed every shot of this film, at first to study the compositions and colours, but ultimately as a meditative exercise – a way to draw out the film’s languid, tactile aesthetic, beyond its runtime. Where mine was a purely visual study, Every Frame A Painting talks through their findings:
Drive lives in its visuals. Its story is its meticulous choreography and mise-en-scene. It sits with you in its thickly humid ambience, in which you become perversely comfortable, and offers only occasional rays of light as it veers between throbbing dread and stunning violence. Its “Neon Noir” (as opposed to neo-noir, but more on that below) owes as much to Kavinski‘s “Night Call” playing over the opening titles as to Cliff Martinez‘s score beyond that; and Refn’s visual storytelling here is as much about the wordless sequences as the lights, colours and textures of the details within them.
And on top of everything, when such a lush, eerie, tensely sweaty world is populated with such an outstanding cast – Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and a bumbling Bryan Cranston who seems to have swapped typecast roles with a properly terrifying Albert Brooks – what is there not to adore?
Drive‘s cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, reveals the techniques he used to light and shoot the film to Indy Mogul:
The term “Neon Noir” isn’t mine – the first I heard it was via Broey Deschanel, who references Arnett, Brody, Holden, and Zeitchik in her look at how it functions in Drive: