Film – Drive (2011)
Composer – Cliff Martinez & Various other artists
Drive is an Art-house film by director Nicolas Winding Refn. The film features Ryan Gosling as a stunt/getaway driver who befriends a neighbor and her child and through a number of events (mainly a getaway gone wrong) manages to get on the wrong side of a local mobster, revealing to us that Ryans character isn’t as nice as we’d first imagined. When first played at the Cannes Film Festival Drive was met by a standing ovation, mainly due to it’s tense atmosphere, superb acting, its neo-noir/b-movie style and it’s incredibly authentic 80s synth soundtrack.
Drive’s soundtrack is a mixture between some already established songs by artists such as Kavinsky and an original score by composer Cliff Martinez. Despite there being a range of contributors to the soundtrack there is still this vein of similarity throughout, mainly due to director Nicolas choosing the music and then showing it to the composer, asking for pretty much the same style/tone to be written. As mentioned the soundtrack is almost solely comprised of synth-pop music, mainly that which was popular in the 80s with the soundtracks to films such as Escape From New York and TV such as Miami Vice. The music plays incredibly well dynamically, displaying Goslings characters feelings/experience during the getaway scenes, the scenes when with the neighbour and child and then the more violent scenes later on in the film with a mood which relates as you would imagine, but also with a sense of tension. From beginning to the mid way point there is this feeling that something is off with the main character, portrayed well through a constant pulse in the music and differing melodies that through their structure put the viewer on the edge of their seat. Once the aggression and violence comes out there is still this contestant pulse, the music doesn’t go erratic like in many action films or famously in the Psycho shower scene, it lifts, but not too much, displaying a kind of uneasy and emotionless side of the main character.
I think the tone Cliff Martinez and Nicolas Refn set for this film was incredible. It is authentic to its time/style/tone, it creates this tense and uneasy feeling within the viewer and simply as music it is incredibly well written and produced.
As a little extra note, Radio 1 revisited this film in 2014 having bands such as Biffy Clyro, BMTH and CHVRCHES record covers of each track and it was then played on BBC3 with the new soundtrack. Many were unhappy with this, feeling it wasn’t needed or disgraced the original soundtrack. I feel to think that is ridiculous, they hadn’t completely replaced the old soundtrack, if you would rather listen to it originally (as i would) then of course you can still do that and many (not all) of the pieces of music recorded for this edit were very good, well worth a listen, especially Biffy Clyro, CHVRCHES and Bastilles versions.