The route that Drive takes passes through various points in cinematic (and musical) history, but to the director and Gosling’s credit, manages to tread new ground. First, the soundtrack—a sultry blend of meditative disco and spunky ’80s pop—provides the film with an emotional center that is, for lack of better words, cool as hell.
2 Fast 2 Furious this is not; Drive is a love story. The man: no-name, tight-lipped Hollywood stuntman (Gosling). The woman: glowing next-door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). When Irene has a hit placed on her head, Gosling’s stuntman will stop at nothing to ensure no harm comes to the apple of his eye.
The music documenting the driver’s journey is something to behold. The percussion is pulsating with techno beats ablaze; retro-keyboard sounds hover over the chime of dissonant strings. Instrumental artist Cliff Martinez, responsible for 13 of the score’s 19 tracks, has many flashy tricks up his sleeve; his most effective being silence. Throughout the film, there is little dialogue or music: silence punctuates each hypnotic shot of Gosling driving at night. It is silence that amplifies the film’s sudden, and often brutal, acts of graphic violence. Furthermore, it is silence that trails the driver’s and the villain’s inevitably intersecting paths.
The percussion is pulsating with techno beats ablaze; retro-keyboard sounds hover over the chime of dissonant strings.
The Driver prowls through the dark depths of L.A. to title theme (and album opener) “Nightcall,” by French electronic artist Kavinsky. The song is one of contrasts; Lovefoxxx’s tender female vocals crashing against Kavinsky’s steely instrumentation. As far as motifs go, it’s undeniably thematic. “There’s something about you/ it’s hard to explain,” Lovefoxxx coos. Droning “Under Your Spell” by Montreal trio Desire, hammers away with its constant tempo.
“Oh My Love,” a sweeping elegiac mood-changer, calls on a symphony number by Italian composer Riz Ortolani. The track heightens as the action pans out. “Tick of the Clock” is Drive’s first teaser toward the film’s impending style. Performed by Portland’s The Chromatics, “Tick of the Clock” pulsates in the opening minutes with a sizzle.
The integration of sound and scene are seamless. Just wait for the scene where the driver violently confronts a L.A. thug. The motif establishes the Driver as a violent, lone protector. Whether he’s beating the bad guys to a pulp, or trading smiles with the woman he loves, “A Real Hero” resonates. The song, which illustrates loyalty, sticks with you. From Toronto duo College, it’s a standout.
Gluing the album together are several original sketches by Martinez. Minimalistic at times and soaring at others, Martinez interbreeds ambient and wrenchingly dramatic tones, overall resulting in a touching ambiance. Soothing.
That Drive earned an Oscar nod for sound editing is no accident; the soundtrack and moving picture are one. Whether its an extended shot of Gosling’s stoic Driver, a jolting burst of violence or an intimate scene of dialogue between the film’s characters, Martinez and his fellow contributors have crafted a soundtrack that, for all of its nostalgia, is refreshingly forward-thinking.