Film Review: Drive

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is aesthetically satisfying, absurd, and compelling throughout. In short, Drive is a must-see film.

A Hollywood stunt car driver moonlights as a getaway driver for hire by night. When he moves into a new building, he meets neighbour Irene and her young son Benicio. Initially hoping to form a friendship with the pair, the driver gets into a lot of trouble when he tries to help out the family…

Based on James Sallis’ novel, Hossein Amini’s screenplay is fairly light. More precedence is given to the look and the feel of Drive. The narrative is fairly straightforward, with more emphasis placed on action rather than speech. Notwithstanding, the film offers tension, as well as reflection.

The dialogue in Drive is very restrained. This is not just limited to the protagonist; Irene in particular seems also to say very little. There is a conspicuous attempt to convey only what is necessary through speech. The lack of dialogue allows the action to breathe in some scenes. Moreover, so much is conveyed by the expressions of the characters that speech is not really necessary.

Drive‘s violence is reserved for a select number of scenes rather than being a consistent feature of the film. When is does rear its head, the violence is incredibly graphic. Although it can be shocking, it never feels gratuitous in the same way as a torture-porn film. Instead, the portrayal of violence is in keeping with the style of Refn’s film.

From the film’s opening credits, it is clear that aesthetics are going to be incredibly important. The hot pink typefont suggests a throwback to the 1980s. This is further reinforced by the choice of soundtrack. Songs such as College’s ‘A Real Hero’ are great, and reminiscent of eighties synth music.

The costumes in Drive also feed into this stylistic theme. The attire of the protagonist is incredibly important in depicting his character. The other characters also appear to be dressed in a particular style, not modern but not distinctly from a specific period either. Costume designer Erin Benach has done a terrific job with the vintage-look designs.

Ryan Gosling shows the necessary restraint in his performance. Like his co-star Carey Mulligan as Irene, so much is portrayed through looks and expressions rather than line delivery. Elsewhere, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman are well cast in their respective roles.

Drive is simply a superb film. Highly recommended viewing.

Film Review: Season of the Witch

Inexplicable accents and Nicolas Cage’s inexplicable hair are just two of the more superficial problems with Season of the Witch. The film reeks of corner cutting, and neither the narrative nor the action sequences engage viewers.

Knights Behmen and Felson depart from the Crusades, uneasy with commands to slaughter unarmed people. After arriving in a plague-ravaged village, the knights are asked to transport a young woman accused of witchcraft to a remote monastery. Hoping to rid the village of the plague, danger ensues as the group embarks on a treacherous journey…

The plot of Season of the Witch is fairly typical of the sword and sorcery genre. Any mystery over whether the girl has supernatural powers is annulled by the lack of exposition. Season of the Witch does not provide the audience with a reason to care about the girl’s fate. Equally so, there is a lack of tension in what should be critical scenes, owing to a lack of character development.

The quest narrative employed by Season of the Witch features a number of clichéd set pieces, the outcome of which will surprise few. The inclusion of Kay, a young man who joins the group after the start of their journey, suggests that he will have a decisive role in the film. Although he plays a pivotal role in the climax, screenwriter Bragi F. Schut does not give Kay a reason to embark on the journey. A connection to either the girl or some underlying motivation for putting his life in danger never materialises, thus reducing the credibility of the story further.

Season of the Witch is set in the fourteenth century. At the beginning of the film, a sequence of Crusade battle covering over a decade is depicted. This attempt at historical context is at odds with the indeterminateness of the small village location. Moreover, Behmen and Felson are supposedly English knights, yet there is no attempt to conceal or explain their American accents. The film would have done better to root itself in an imagined past, rather than make reference to historical realities.

There is an over reliance on CGI for both the battle sequences at the beginning and the climactic scenes. The problem with this is that it does not look great, therefore giving Season of the Witch an artificial appearance. The filmmakers should have limited the use of CGI; the battle scenes at the beginning, for example, could have been eliminated or at least dialed down.

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman do not give poor performances as Behmen and Felson, but are hindered by a sub-standard script. Likewise, Robert Sheehan as Kay and Claire Foy as the girl are both adequate in their respective roles. Christopher Lee makes a very brief appearance. It is surprising that an actor of his magnitude would opt to star in a dud like Season of the Witch.

Dominic Sena’s film lacks even the momentum that might have compensated for the poor script and synthetic-looking special effects. Season of the Witch is not a painful watch, but neither is it a particularly enjoyable one.