“A real hero, a real human being”. This concept is what runs through my mind while watching Drive. Let me begin by warning those female teens: Just because Ryan Gosling is in the film, this is NOT a romantic comedy. Do not expect another Nicholas Sparks adaptation such as The Notebook. In fact, there may only be one full minute of on-screen romance in the entire one hour and forty minutes. So, change your expectations and you will fully enjoy this film.
Right from the opening car scene, you can already tell this will be a diverting and action-packed adventure. The premise is about a stunt driver ironically named Driver played by Gosling who uses his epic driving skills to perform duties for mobsters and other dangerous beings. He is somewhat of a loner until he meets his neighbors, Irene and her son. Irene is played by the sweet Carey Mulligan whose character develops into a possible love interest for Driver. But, their relationship is strained throughout the film by Irene’s husband, played by Oscar Isaac. Her husband, Standard, has been in prison and out of his son’s life for many years and he just happens to return when Driver and Irene meet, clichéd but it moves the film along well. The cliché comes from when films always have an event interrupt a romantic encounter at the most inappropriate time. It does not always occur that way in real life but who am I to judge Hollywood?
The chemistry between Driver and Irene is touching and makes the very few words said between them almost feel like they talk the entire film. He falls for this girl, but they both know they can't be together; her husband will be home despite how Irene feels. Driver wants to keep her and Benicio, the son, safe no matter if the husband is in the picture or not. The dialogue between the two is not much; they seem to just stare at each other with an ever-lasting fire burning in their eyes. You don't even need dialogue between the two to know they feel something for each other, whether it be caring or loving. Driver possibly has the fewest lines of dialogue out of all the major characters. Gosling's performance of the character was great. Driver reads people, situations, and thinks about what he has to say before he says it. The expressions shown on Gosling’s face tell the audience exactly what he is doing, thinking, or feeling. These expressions particularly happen when Driver meets Irene’s husband, Standard. When Standard is talking, Gosling’s character gives one word answers and never seems to look Standard in the eyes showing the audience a sort of tension between the two.
Our main villains, Bernie and Nino, were very convincing as mob bosses who would do anything to get the job done. Ron Perlman played Nino whose already colossal stature makes him a force to be reckoned with. But, the film seems to make Bernie, played by Albert Brooks, the dominant villain. They wasted a perfect role for Perlman as when Driver went after him, he turned from a powerful mob boss to a useless human being who seems to accept his fate when there was room for a dynamic fight scene between the two. That seems to be the only moment that was flawed with this film.
Brooks, on the other hand, was phenomenal in his given role. He was convincing as a villain and never let his guard down when committing the crimes. When it came time to face Driver, he used the script to his advantage and played the villain like he should have, very intimidating and manipulative. Although I still believe Perlman should have been the main villain, Brooks did play his role well and slightly changed my mind leading to a bloody climax.
That being said, this film is extremely violent and gore-filled. If you are queasy at the sight of blood, the scenes you experience in Drive may make you a little squeamish especially during the head-stomping elevator scene. But, being a lover of everything gory, I find these scenes deliciously enjoyable. To experience Gosling’s twist from a no personality loner to a violent psychopath who will do anything to stay alive is a thrilling journey from start to finish. The thrill also comes from whether the viewer believes Driver is a hero or not by what he is doing in the film.
This twist of character is what makes the viewer question whether he is “a real hero, a real human being” as the song “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth suggests. Speaking of the soundtrack, the music throughout the film suggests an essence of the eighties. The eighties were an era of mob movies and car chases whereas today’s action films evolve around big Hollywood explosions. Also, today’s films do not normally use stunt drivers anymore as the effects are more elaborate with our computer generated images. The bright pink neon coloring of the word Drive in the opening credits almost gives a feeling of being in the era of Grease. Their usage of the song “A Real Hero” is almost forcing us to evaluate our thinking of whether Driver is a hero or not. At first, we see the character as our usual hero, falling in love, helping people when he can, fighting off the villains. However, we go up and down on a rollercoaster ride as his actions further alter our opinions on his true persona. This connects to the soundtrack where if you listen to the lyrics, it is asking you to think about if Driver is a “real hero, a real human being.” For me, I find Driver as an anti-hero, not a hero but not quite the villain-type which happened to be a popular motive in the eighties.
As for our climax and ending of the film, some may feel like they left out something or a major element was missing. To me, the filmmakers could not have made a better ending. We did not know whether Driver was alive or dead and the final scene is emotionally draining as you begin to care so much about Gosling’s character that you are unsure as to how the film will end. However, we are left with questions about what happened between Irene and Driver’s relationship. But, if you focus on the message, the absence shows you the answer to your unanswered questions. When the filmmakers do not mention what happened, you must use your own imagination to tell you how it ended. So, it may not be a satisfying ending to everyone but if you enjoy films that make you create your own ending, it should be all you were looking for.
All in all, Drive is an epic new take on our standard “Hero vs. Villain” film we are comfortable with. Step out of your comfort zone and experience this film and you will be relieved at how it alters the action genre making it almost a drama with the emotional standing behind our characters. After viewing the film, ask yourself: Is Driver a hero or villain? Everyone’s answers will be different but most of the viewpoints will be praising when the ending credits roll. If the director’s goal was to leave “Is Driver a hero or villain” unanswered, he accomplished it. To me, Refn, the director, wanted to show the audience a new approach to a hero and tell us that not all heroes are obvious. Watch Drive, you will not be disappointed. Most of us are so comfortable with our usual action films that end happily after our hero defeats the villains. But, as you watch Drive, you will understand this will not be one of those films that have a clear, happy ending and do not have an obvious hero. You will not be disappointed with this new addition to the action genre. Besides, who doesn’t like a change? So, broaden your film genre horizons and step away from the usual films we are used to and take a joy ride with Drive.