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The Anti-Hero In Drive: Character Development and Theme in Screenwriting

The anti-hero character is a literary figure that defies traditional heroism, often displaying qualities and behaviours that are morally ambiguous or even outright villainous. One example of an anti-hero in contemporary media is the character of Driver in the 2011 film “Drive,” directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Here I’ll examine the development of the anti-hero character in “Drive” and the ways in which it subverts traditional heroism.

From the opening scene of “Drive,” it is clear that the titular character, played by Ryan Gosling, is not a traditional hero. He is a man of few words, with a stoic demeanour and a job as a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a getaway driver for criminals by night. He appears to be a man of simple pleasures, with his only interests being cars and his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio. However, as the plot progresses, it becomes apparent that Driver is not just a skilled driver but also a highly skilled killer, willing to use violence to protect those he cares about.

The film’s use of violence is central to Driver’s characterisation as an anti-hero. While many traditional heroes are defined by their aversion to violence, Driver is comfortable using it to achieve his goals. He is not afraid to use his skills as a driver and his knowledge of Los Angeles’s streets to evade the police, and he is not above killing those who threaten the people he cares about. In one scene, he brutally beats a man to death with his own boot, and in another, he deliberately causes a car crash that kills a pursuing police officer.

However, while Driver’s actions may be morally ambiguous, the film makes it clear that he is not a villain. He is not motivated by greed or a desire for power, but rather by a desire to protect Irene and Benicio. His actions are not driven by selfishness or a desire for personal gain, but by a sense of duty to those he cares about. This sense of duty is evident in the film’s climactic scene, where Driver risks his own life to protect Irene and Benicio from the gangsters who are threatening them.

The development of Driver’s character is also influenced by the film’s use of genre conventions. “Drive” is heavily influenced by the neo-noir genre, which often features anti-hero protagonists who operate outside of the law. Driver’s characterisation as an anti-hero is in line with the genre’s tendency to subvert traditional heroism and explore the grey areas of morality.

However, the film also incorporates elements of the action genre, which typically features more traditional heroes who use violence to protect the innocent. By combining these two genres, “Drive” creates a unique characterisation of an anti-hero who is both violent and protective.

In conclusion, “Drive” offers a compelling portrayal of the anti-hero character through its protagonist Driver. By subverting traditional heroism and exploring the grey areas of morality, the film offers a complex and nuanced view of a man who is both violent and protective.

Through its use of genre conventions and character development, “Drive” creates a unique and memorable portrayal of the anti-hero that challenges traditional notions of heroism. If you’re interested in reading more about the themes used in Drive, you can watch my video essay here.

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