At the beginning of this film, Gosling’s character is nothing but a driver. That is all he knows, that is all he does. During the day he is a stunt driver, and by night he is a methodical getaway driver. But the film itself is the driver’s realisation that he wants to be something more. He wants to find happiness, and lead a normal life with Irene and her son, Benecio.
Drive explores the themes of humanity and redemption all embodied by the driver. He feels his life is just what it is, driving, but after he meets Irene his perspective changes, and you can visibly see this on Gosling’s expression, he’s like a little boy with a crush on a girl at school. Irene is the only good thing in the driver’s life, and he wants to give up all the crime and instead become a normal ‘human being’.
Nicolas Winding Refn is meticulous, and every little detail in this film has some sort of meaning, however his precision does make the film a little slow at times. The two biggest motifs present in the film are the scorpion on the back of the driver’s jacket and the song “A Real Hero” by College & Electric Youth.
The scorpion alludes to the fable of the scorpion and the frog, in which the frog aids the scorpion across a river, the frog is afraid the scorpion will sting him, however realises that the scorpion will perish as well if the frog is stung. Regardless the scorpion stings the frog, claiming that is it’s instinct to sting him no matter what and they both perish. How is this relevant? Well in this case the driver is the scorpion, he wants to change, but he cannot, his nature cannot be denied, not even for Irene. This is clear in the elevator scene where he kisses Irene, to allow for a moment of bliss, before he reveals his true nature to her as he violently stomps and kills an assailant, shattering any chance of a happy ending with Irene.
The song “A Real Hero” emulates what the driver desires to be no matter what, a real human being. After he kills Bernie, securing the safety of Irene and Benecio, the driver simply just does what he does best, he drives. He drives and he doesn’t look back, he abandons his fantasy of being with Irene. Knowing he can never come back from what he has done he leaves, he becomes a real hero.
The cinematography in this film was first-class, however I can understand why some people disliked the film. The trailer had promise of action and car chases, but the movie was an art house piece about redemption, with a lot of tension and slow pans, so naturally some people would be upset. The lighting and shots of the interior of the car were superb and the soundtrack matched the visuals perfectly. What I also love about this film is that the antagonist (Bernie), shows his human self, in the scene after he kills Shannon (Bryan Cranston) he sits uncomfortably by himself in his own home, evidence that he doesn’t feel pleasure in his actions, rather he feels it is his duty.
Gosling’s acting as the driver was superb as he perfectly portrayed both his serious and boyish nature, and Cranston as his father figure was mesmerising as always. In conclusion I felt this film definitely did not get the recognition it deserved, however I don’t think it ever intended to be a ‘Hollywood smash’, but rather a beautiful art house film enjoyed by frequent movie goers.