Friday, February 3, 2012

Who's Driving This Culture?

“Drive” is the critical “darling” of 2011. Many film types loved it and were terribly upset when it did not get the Oscar nominations they thought it deserved. It ended up on many a top ten list of films for the year, including the first place on some. It will not be on the NonModern list when it finally sees the light of day.

That is not because it is a poorly made film. It is well directed, brilliantly acted, tensely paced and engaging. The opening set piece is one of the best on film for 2011. It is also not directly due to the completely deserved R rating that it earned. The over-the-top foul language of a couple characters, the brief unnecessary nudity in one scene and the shocking violence are enough for me to not recommend this film to my Christian friends who try to avoid such things; but other films containing one or more of these elements have earned my respect in the past.

What those elements do reveal in this case, however, is an underlying cultural problem that diagnoses a disturbing condition. Most of the praise this film is receiving is for the (once again that 2011 buzz word) nostalgia it evokes for films of the sixties like “Bullitt.” In the first place that comparison is overly simplistic, (like saying that “Cujo” is like Lassie.”) The biggest problem is that today’s culture has a problem distinguishing between “Bullitt’s” cop fighting the system to seek truth and justice, and “Drive’s” sick amoral monster seeking safety and ultimately vengeance. Somehow the later qualifies as a hero today.

Make no mistake, the driver is a monster. The less-than-subtle (but probably seen by the filmmakers as cleverly symbolic) scorpion comparison is the giveaway. He maintains a stoic silence and even keel throughout the start of the movie precisely because he knows what he becomes when he gives into passion. He is the scorpion convincing himself, more than the frog, that he is capable of controlling his nature. As an audience we are shocked at the levels of violence of which he is capable, especially compared to the mobsters he comes up against.

How does someone accept as a hero a person capable of the things the driver does? That is the question one is left with from the reception this film has gotten.

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