They* say that sometimes an actor can best be judged not for the times when she is speaking but when she is not – that silences are where they make their hay and prove or disprove their talent to you (* I’m not exactly sure who “they” are, but in this context please just assume that it’s the people who have said that). Drive appears to be the same way.
This is both a positive and a negative, but more on that in a minute.
Movie geeks/snobs were salivating over the trailer for Drive for months (if not decades, seemingly) prior to its release. It promised a sleek, ultra-violent, artsy version of The Transporter (hooray – I just won a prize for being the 1,000,000th person to say that!) , and who wouldn’t want an upgrade in acting ability from Jason Statham to Ryan Gosling? The film then delivered on that promise, leaving said movie geeks/snobs salivating on their way out of the theater as well, praising the direction of Nicolas Winding Refn, the 80s-influenced electro soundtrack, and the acting by veterans such as Gosling, Albert Brooks and Breaking Bad.
On the other side of the aisle were the masses (aka normal people), who walked in hoping for an action film (I suppose) and walked out wondering what the fuck had just happened to them and their two hours.
So here’s the thing about the silences in Drive: they’re loud as hell. They are pronounced and unmissable. They are a glaring pink-and-blue neon sign that says either “Pretension” or “I am a Danish filmmaker” – I’m not exactly sure which. However, these silences – both the literal non-verbal ones and the silences caused by a shortage of action scenes (relatively speaking) – are not only polarizing to just about all who watch the film but are also or paramount importance to it.
They are what sets Drive apart from not only The Transporter (1,000,001!) but from just about every other “action” film that will receive a wide release in North America in 2011 (or plus/minus a few years, I’d wager). They simultaneously give the action scenes that are included special added doses of power and the painfully awkward stretches between two characters’ dialogue added heaps of discomfort. After all, what’s going to get your attention more – 20 people moaning all at once, or just one hitting you in the head with a baseball bat? They are its calling card, and your stance on them will likely shape your overall stance on the film, for better or worse.