Drive is not the simple movie it's title makes it out to be. In fact, it is so much more than just a drive, but then again, it depends on how you interpret the title. Drive is a story focused on the character known only as "the driver," who drives in heists as a well trusted and highly skill professional driver. In the opening sequence, the driver takes us on a wild ride in attempt to outrun and escape the L.A. police. As evident throughout the entire film, camera angles are phenomenal and seem as though they couldn't have been in better places in conjunction with the color filtering and lighting scheme of the entire film. When the opening chase comes to a conclusion, we are instantly left to question his role in the film as a protagonist or antagonist or neither. The clever camera work, lighting, character traits that drag us into curiosity about the characters and the events unfolding, and the complete story that the opening sequence provides the audience with, is enough to walk away with happy to have seen the film.
Driver (Ryan Gosling) is the man behind the wheel that the story focuses on throughout the majority of the film. His character is calm, quiet, stoic, and serious, drawing out our curiosity of what kind of person he is, what his background is, why he drives, etc. While we are left to question what his "drive" and goals are in the beginning, his character quickly evolves and his goals and character become much more evident when he falls in love with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan). This is where the story takes off and leads into something entirely new and different for the driver. Though Driver takes the role similar to that of the "other" in the film, this is not your typical "other" film.
Back on the film's camerawork, Drive incorporates very unique shots of the driving scenes in this film, unlike most driving scenes and films. Most of the shots are taken from inside to the car, providing us with a unique view from inside the car instead of focus on the things that happen on the outside of the car (they are practically irrelevant). The entire opening sequence is primarily shot from inside the car with the driver, throwing us right into the intensity of the chases and the overall ride from the passenger seat. Throughout the film, there are a lot of well placed and well timed shots in which characters move into environments where surroundings and foreground make for interesting still shots. In the scene where the driver kills the first two people in the film, he stands in the doorway of the bathroom with blood on his face. The shot is so well position in conjunction with the lighting, that when he slowly moves back into the bathroom, his face goes from being in the sunlight to covered in a shadow. Many of the shots like these are somewhat symbolic of the characters in the film.
Another prime example of a very well placed shot is when the driver walks into his dark apartment and the shadow of his head is cast perfectly in the square of a window pane on the wall. Though it may or may not be symbolic, the shot is very well coordinated and artistic. Another clever shot is when the driver puts the groceries down in Irene's kitchen and is talking to her when he notices himself in the square, thin mirror on the wall. In both of these shots and in shots alike, music (if any), lighting, and camera angle/position clearly coincide with each other to deliver a full impact of the film's creativity and storytelling. Music plays a major role in the film as a tone setter and storyteller in itself. The most popular and most cited scene is the elevator scene of Drive, which amazingly combines lighting and music to tell the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of the characters, therefore telling us an aspect of the story that dialogue could not replace. The music in the film is largely connected. For example, in the elevator scene and in a the previous scene where the driver kills the first two people in the film, we hear the same scary building tone in the elevator right before he kills the man, just like the tone after he kills the first two men.
When it comes to artistic and engaging films, Drive does not fail to please the viewer with the combined theatrical elements that are incorporated into the film. The acting is without question very effective in the portrayal of the characters of the film. Many of the moments of the film where dialogue can be placed are filled with effective facial expressions and actions conducted by the characters, whom seem to build off of each other quite effectively in order to make the scene seem a realistic as possible. After watching the film and reviewing it, I notice the clever storytelling used by the characters along with the theatrical aspects (lighting, music, and camera position) that bring out the stories, traits, and parts of the characters not thought about through dialogue. When I first heard about the film, I thought that it would be disappointing and dry because of what others were saying about the film and how it's only about a man that drives, when it is in fact layered in storyline. The depth of this film is almost indescribable.
Since the story is so layered and there is so much to think about in the film, I feel as though the story and film is very effective. The full stories of all the charters are not given away, which leave me and the audience to wonder about each of them, and most of all, the ending is very "open ended," which leaves us with the rest of the story left to our imagination. Of the layers of the film, I find the story of the driver wanting to become "normal"/the love story the most interesting. We never see the driver smile, show happiness, or act as a open person until he is with Irene, driving through the L.A. gutters. Through the beginning of the film, the driver is depicted as this mysterious, quiet, and emotionless person until being with Irene changes his character completely when he is around her. Reflecting upon the driver himself, one must wonder, "What does it take and mean to actually be 'normal?'" I believe that the answer is not evident, but rather hidden in the film and only answerable though personal interpretation.
With the love story, the most important relationship that is developed in the story is the relationship of the driver and Irene. The relationship between the driver and Irene is developed in multiple ways. To initiate the relationship, the driver mets Irene on the elevator and we can see he is obviously interested in her as the camera focuses on his face and on Irene. Later in the supermarket, the driver sees Irene down the aisle and then backs up and avoids her probably because he can see that she has a kid and is "taken." Film makers typically use the story, boy meeter girl, boy falls in love with girl, and the third part is open ended. It's the same in this film, but the film is set up in a way that the driver meets Irene, finds her interesting, avoids her, helps her, takes her on a nice ride, falls in love as Irene falls in love with him as well, there is conflict in the way of their love relationship (the return of Irene's husband), and then at the height of the romance the driver has to end their relationship to protect Irene.
With the multiple story lines, Drive allows us to have more "room space" to explore the various elements and concepts of the story that the film tries to get across. Most movies contain that simple sort of straight line story plot, whereas Drive provides multiple aspects to one story that weave together to provoke thought. The love story, as they typically end happy, does not exactly end the same way in this film. Driver turns out to have the experience of the "other" where he is loved by someone as he loves them in return, but cannot be with them due to the circumstances.
5 Significant Scenes (Some mentioned earlier):
- The scene where two men shoot into the hotel and kill the lady in the bathroom and nearly kill the Driver. When the Driver moves to the wall and manages to kill the man in the bathroom and then shoots the other guy breaking through the door, there is a strong musical score that highlights the emotions and intensity of the events that just occurred. As the music intensifies steadily, the driver, with a shocked look on his face, moves into the shadow of the bathroom while standing at the threshold of the bathroom. I think this marks a very significant moment in the movies where the driver's dark side is highlighted. This is the first time in the movie where he kills anyone and it plays a significant role in the change of his character and emotions. This scene is very connected to the elevator scene as far as character development of the driver and musical score.
- One part in the movie where the driver is driving through the L.A. gutters with Irene and her son in the car. This is the first scene that is really bright and has a cheery tone. Here the driver, who seems to be this all quiet, serious, and difficult to understand character is actually smiling. This scene plays a major role in setting up the goal of the driver, which can be interpreted in many ways. What this scene highlights for me is that the driver wants to become "normal" and settle down without having to resort to crime in his life. I believe this scene in particular is extremely significant because the driver finally gets to experience something that makes him happy, which takes him from his sort of dark and mysterious character. This moment in the movie is also a highlight of the development of the love story layered within the film. Music is very joys and free in this scene, which makes the audience feel "alive."
- Elevator scene (second one) is significant for a number of reason. It is where the driver initially meets Irene and where he leaves her last in the movie. The elevator scene before the characters part is a monumental component of the film. It is a sort of climax (especially for the love story of the film) that represents the parting of the driver from the only thing that seemed to lift up his spirits, Irene. Here there is a romantic kiss moment, which can be interpreted at first as a way to look non suspicious to the guy with the gun who is supposed to kill the driver in the elevator, but this can also be interpreted as a farewell kiss. Another major aspect of this scene is that it is the first and last time the driver and Irene actually share romance. Lighting in this scene is very significant along with the musical score that sets the emotions and tone of the scene. The music and lighting shift to fit the things that go on in this scene, such as the loud sort of mystical music that shifts into the terrifying tone of something serious about to happen (the same tone as the one after the driver killed the first two people in the movie. When the driver looks back at Irene after he has killed the man in the elevator, we can see how terrified he is to have caused Irene to be scared of him. Driver reveals the dark and obviously not so gentle, kind, helpful, and caring side that Irene knew him for.
- The scene where Irene's husband is home and there is a party going on and we can see Irene in the back looking very gloomy. Here we can see that through her emotions, she has strong feelings for the driver and doesn't know how to react to her husband's homecoming. Here is another pivotal moment in the love story of the film in which we conflict is introduced to the love story. The music in this scene is a song that has the lyrics, "I don't eat. I don't sleep." I find the music is this scene very descriptive of what is going on in the film and how the characters are feeling. Interestingly enough, like the game that is on the radio in the first chase scene, there are a lot of musical selections that portray the story that the film itself is bringing to light.
- The ending scenes, where Irene and the driver have their last conversation. Here we can see that Irene, even after the sequence of events with the driver telling her about her husband and the elevator scene, is willing to be with the driver again. However, we know that the two characters will not be together again because the driver will always have to, "look over his shoulder." Therefore if the driver were to go and be with Irene again, he would be risking her life. This scene plays a major part in the resolution and of the overall story. For the love story, this is the conclusion that the driver cannot be with Irene and this is also the conclusion for the crime layer of the film because the driver has killed the man he needed to and can now drive far away. The music that picks up at this point in the film is very "free" like and makes us feel sorry for the driver, but relieved at the same time.