Screen writers do amazing things. In this particular case, Drive’s screen writer Hossein Amini flattened time lines, created smooth chronology, condensed multiple characters*, knocked out the overused parental trauma, polished Driver’s motivations into the heroic mold, and all in all, showed himself to be the Academy Award Nominee for Best Writing — Adapter Screenplay that he is.
So why was the the movie such an unsatisfying experience**? Because Amini flattened times lines, created smooth chronology, condensed characters . . . etc. In short, he made a script for a movie — a movie that opened nation wide, starred big names, and cost $16 to see. For such ventures, please note: pretty lights do not make a movie; enigmatic characters and long pauses do not make a movie; atmosphere does not make a movie; heck, even a bunch of scenes depicting graphic violence do not make a movie. The medium is never the entire message, but it is bits and parcel of it, and in this medium, narrative reigns supreme. Drive didn’t work as a movie, despite its promising setup, terrific acting, and great scriptwriter, because the narrative completely fell apart for the second half of the film.
This is not a call for all movies to be action blockbusters. It’s not even a veiled endorsement (like that’s worth much!) for all commercially released movies to be action-filled and subtlety-free. It’s a a two-bit blogger’s opinion on why Wings of the Dove (also adapted into a screenplay by Mr. Amini) works, as do numerous other character-driven, prettily lit, great-atmosphere movies, and Drive doesn’t. A failed movie, however, is a great reason to pick up a book.
(*He also made a central Latina character into a white Englishwoman. Go figures.)
(**You don’t have to agree with me. Please feel free to insert “according to two-bit blogger’s owl criticism” (that’d be me) wherever you want.)