It is long due, but I finally got around to seeing the film Drive and I don’t think I managed to pay so much attention to the plot absorbed as I was by the visuals. The cinematography of this movie by Newton Thomas Sigel is spectacular. Let’s take a closer look.
The action takes place mostly inside of a car, at night in a city. If you look at the attached image you’ll notice the use of rim light and shadow to shape the character, very reminiscent of film-noir. There is also a very good use of the color of the light to achieve further contrast (aaah nothing like a good old Teal and Orange combo). In slightly smaller budget photography 😉 we can gel the flashes to tint the light, which works great to integrate a subject with the environment (e.g. the use of orange light to shape Rhiannon’s arms onthis picture) though I have yet to man up to take it to the level Joe McNally is able to pull off in The Shadow Man image from his excellent book The Hot Shot Diaries.
Back to Drive, even simple scenes which are presumably lit -in the movie- by simple natural light look awesome. Have a look at the image below (I’m sure I’m breaking some copyright law with these images). I think this is largely due to that thing we vaguely call the cinematic look, more exactly the fact that there’s a huge tonal range from highlights to the almost black shadows. In real life, I would expect light coming from large windows to bounce around much more within the room, which would end up filling the shadows a bit more. Again another example of the mastery of the Director of Photography to take natural light as a starting point, keeping the tone and direction, and then enhance it to make the result even more visually interesting. It would be nice to be able to compare the raw shots with the final color-graded ones to appreciate the post-processing even better.
Watch the movie if you haven’t, the soundtrack is great as well. This one definitely goes to my list of
Shake fist at how good these people are Inspiration and I now have a sudden urge to start watching some more gangster movies. I’d love to hear about your recommendations in the comments if you have some!