“You tell me where we start, where we’re going, where we’re going afterwards. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”
The Driver, Ryan Gosling
The unnamed main character – played by Ryan Gosling – is a part-time mechanic/stunt driver, who happens to occasionally moonlight as a getaway driver for hire. His quiet, detached lifestyle slowly changes during a chance encounter with his neighbour, Irene, and her son, Benicio, and his icy exterior begin to thaw. That all changes, however, when Benicio’s father is released from prison with heavy debts which he can’t afford to pay back, thus endangering the lives of Irene and her son. In order to stop them from getting hurt, The Driver (Gosling) offers to do one last getaway job to pay the father’s debts (ensuring the safety of Irene and Benicio). Sadly, everything goes wrong, and the driver is abruptly thrust into the path of a ruthless mobster who will stop at nothing to get his money back.
I think that what surprised me most about Drive, is how long it took me to watch it. My younger brother had been going on and on about this film for over a year, trying to get me to watch it so often that it got to the point where he had started shoving the DVD in front of my face every time I came downstairs. In all honesty, I think it was his enthusiasm for it put me off it. I’d heard good things about the film when it had originally come out, but the general hubbub (including daily harassment by my brother) about the film had died down very quickly and I never thought about it again. Until the fateful day I actually sat down to watch it.
The film’s charm lies in its own mystery. It is interesting to realise how little you end up knowing about the main character, which in part is because of how little he speaks – a fact that makes the film notably quiet against it’s blaring 80s throwback soundtrack. However, it is the films retro styling and music that has won the hearts of viewers and critics alike, so much so that Drive’s soundtrack is now widely quoted as being one of the most influential soundtracks of all time. For example, post-2011 films like The Guest (2014) have used a similar 80s pop-synth vibe in an obvious nod.
Interestingly, the Driver himself is a very ambiguous and unapologetic anti-hero. Far too many good films have ruined their morally grey characters by allowing them to be forgiven and their bad traits ‘erased’ in order to make them more wholesome for the sake of pleasing convention. But Drive doesn’t shy away from who The Driver is, and nor does he.
Adding to this, the director cleverly levelled out the good moments with the bad moments. Nothing good seems to happen with the storyline or to The Driver, without something equally bad to negate it. I won’t spoil anything for those of you who haven’t seen it, but I’m just gonna say two words – elevator scene. His story is at once tragic and shocking, and as a viewer you strapped in for the ride.
In true Ryan Gosling fashion, his acting is very understated, but in a way that excellently fits the role of the quiet anti-hero. The film also has a whole host of other well-known celebrities that pop up. For example, Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy) as the local Jewish mob man, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) as a mob accomplice, and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) as the owner of the garage, where The Driver works. The film is definitely a hotbed of a-list actors, and it is definitely isn’t lacking for the inclusion of so many Hollywood egos.
Overall, I was very impressed with a film I was so enthusiastic to watch. So impressed in fact, that I think I can dare to say I would put it on my list of Top 100 films. The impressive mix of quiet mystery, mixed with blaring 80s synth-pop and extreme gritty violence has made Drive one of those rare films that doesn’t try to be more than it says on the box, and one that I am sure will be on everyone’s film lists for many years to come.