Drive {Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011}

“You have Proved/grown to be a real human being, and a real hero”

Drive is all about Ryan Gosling’s character. A loner who decides to get involved with the lives of others, with catastrophic results.


“You have Proved/grown to be a real human being, and a real hero”

I heard about drive at a screening of Super 8 at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. I struck up a conversation with some guys sitting near me and they told me their two personal fave films of the last year were ‘Drive’ and ‘Shame’. I decided to see if it was still playing and caught it at The Arclight in Hollywood. I realized later that I was lucky because the film had been brought back to that theater for a week only as a special promotion for accolades it had received.

I could do a write up about the film and how amazing it is on just about every level, but what I really wanted to start a discussion about is what the movie is about. I feel like at the heart of every film is a central idea or theme that ascends genre and defines the film. For instance when I look at ‘Braveheart’ I don’t see a historical film, or a war movie etc. I see a love story. At its core I believe that everything in ‘Braveheart’ is a result of the love between William Wallace and his wife. Similarly when I look at a film like ‘shutter Island’. I can sum the story up in a one-word theme, “Truth”. What is the truth? Is Leonardo DiCaprio a detective or a patient? So when I walked out of ‘Drive’ and started reading articles online and talking to people about it I seemed to keep hearing the same thing from everyone, something along the lines of it being a really cool car film.

Yes the title of the film is ‘Drive’ and yes it involves a character that drives, but is that what people really think about after watching this film? It took me a little while, but after a week or so of listening to the soundtrack and specifically the song ‘Real hero’ I started to really think about what the central idea behind this particular film was. Yeah there’s a mob storyline and all the driving stuff and a love story, but what is really going on? And why the hell did he leave at the end!?

The more I thought and tried to piece all the elements together, the more I came to the conclusion that ‘Drive’ is really just about Ryan Gosling’s character.

The interesting thing is that we aren’t given a lot of information about him; in fact we never even learn his name. However there are clues and subtle hints that you can pick up on to help figure things out. It’s obvious that he is not a very social person and doesn’t exactly know how to react around people. Everything from not wanting to shake people’s hands to giving young kids toothpicks allows you to see his somewhat awkward interaction with others. This combined with the story starts to show development of his character. Over the course of events we start to see him develop ‘social norms’ while at the same time we are privy to his adaptation to extreme circumstances. The former development seems new and different for his character while the latter adaptation seems to help us uncover his past. In other words we see him start to talk more and become more social with people, and at the same time we start to see how he is capable of handling criminal situations with ease and even perfection. You start to wonder what this guy used to do before he decided to work low key at a garage and just do driving jobs at night.

Overall I see Drive like this: Ryan Gossling is an anti-social loner who decides to get personally involved with other peoples lives and problems then from there it just goes downhill. He tries to be a hero and achieves it to an extent, but by the end he decides that he is better off only relying on himself and nobody else, that’s why he leaves. We see this build over the course of the film through many scenes. For example when he gives the rundown of how he does jobs. He explains how he doesn’t involve himself personally he just does the job. He doesn’t care about you he cares about his rules. This is how he lives his life up until he meets his neighbor and begins to get involved.

So yes, Drive is a car film, it’s a love story, and a crime drama, but at it’s heart I feel like it’s the story of a loner who wants to be normal just like everyone else, but he isn’t quite sure how. He makes an attempt at a normal life, but it backfires and he’s left with a series of events that push him back into a corner with no other decision but to leave and start over. It’s his attempt to “be a real human being, and a real hero”. –Dan Pierce 1.30.2012


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