Drive Elevator Scene: The Scene of 2011

In our final 2011 edition of Scenes We Love, a column you’ll be seeing a lot more of in the coming year, we’d like to celebrate the scene that, in our humble opinion, was the definitive and most memorable scene of the entire year. A great deal of care and collaboration went into the choosing of this winner, with every FSR staff writer first submitting nominations then a fierce round of voting. In my final thoughts, I’ll reveal the runners up. But for now, lets just enjoy the majesty of a moment that is all at once romantic and violent, sweet and salty, quiet and louder than a bomb.

Setting the Scene:

Up to this point, our quiet hero (Ryan Gosling) has but only one interest: he drives. That is, of course, until he finds himself caught under the spell of his beautifully broken neighbor, played by Carey Mulligan. Now his interests are changed. He will not drive and fight and steal and cheat and do whatever is necessary to keep her out of harms way. It all culminates, both in literal and metaphorical fashion, with a scene in an elevator. The fated lovers share a ride with a man who might be someone to do them harm, and our silent hero won’t be having any of that. But before he gives the man the beating of the last few seconds of his life, he must take a moment to give his love a slow-motion sign of deep affection. It’s a sexy moment that turns into a hellish moment, all at once twisting our own thoughts and desires as only a visionary director like Nicolas Winding Refn can.

Watch the clip:

What’s to Love:

Everything about this scene is worth your appreciation as a film fan. It teems with style and grace, explodes with heart-stopping violence and fills every frame with the emotional weight that’s been built up to that point. It’s the catalyst for the film’s big finish and a microcosm of everything that Nic Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling do right with this film, much of which is done in service of the film’s pulsing atmosphere. Few films of 2011 found that special place in which story and visual and score come together so perfectly to create a wholly transformational experience. Drive wasn’t a film that aspired merely to draw you in. Rather, it was a film that grabbed you between the legs and refused to let go. It hurt do damn good, and this scene is its crown jewel.

Final Thoughts:

Agree or disagree, we’d love to hear in the comments section about your favorite scene of 2011. The staff of FSR, for the most part, was at odds about what would end up taking this particular prize. Nominees included the monstrous train crash in Super 8, Carey Mulligan stopping the world around her with a rendition of “New York, New York” in Steve McQueen’s Shame, Michael Shannon experiencing an emotional break at a fish fry in Take Shelter and Tom Cruise’s heart-stopping scaling of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Any of these scenes could have been the best of 2011, but Drive‘s elevator sequence won by a narrow margin. And in the end, it feels like the right choice. Few scenes stuck with us quite as long as it did. Few scenes felt so well-rounded and meticulously crafted for dramatic effect. Few scenes appropriately represent the sexuality and violence and style that permeated the entire year of 2011 in film.

There’s plenty more to talk about in our 2011 Year in Review.


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