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Drive Ending Explained: A Movie Analysis

Drive Ending Explained Driver Hammer

If you have watched the 2011 neo-noir crime thriller Drive, you might have been left with some questions about the movie’s ending. 

The movie culminates in a brutal scuffle between Driver and a gangster named Bernie, which resolves the story’s tension in a tragic fashion. 

But what does the Drive ending really mean?

Read on as I delve into the nuances of Drive’s ending whilst dissecting the character motivations and themes that make it such an evocative movie.

Drive: A Plot Overview

Drive follows the story of a Hollywood stunt driver, known only as Driver, who also works as a getaway driver for criminals.

Soon into the story, Driver befriends his neighbour Irene, and romantic tensions grow between them, whilst Driver also gets closer to her son, Benicio. 

When Irene’s husband, Standard, returns from prison, it transpires that he owes money to some gangsters, which puts the family in danger. Driver agrees to help Standard with a heist, organised by Nino, to repay his debt.

The heist goes wrong, and after Standard is shot dead, Driver is forced to escape with a bag of stolen money.

The Climax: Driver’s Kiss With Irene In The Lift

Nino continues to pursue Driver through Irene, and tension quickly graduates into suspense as Driver, Irene and Nino’s henchman all find themselves together in the lift of their apartment building.

Suddenly, the scene’s suspense dissipates as Driver turns to Irene and pulls her in for a sensitive, compassionate kiss, an action which revolves around Driver’s desire to protect Irene.

However, this romantic moment is immediately displaced as Driver engages in fierce hand-to-hand combat with Nino’s henchman. 

After quickly overpowering him, the audience gains an insight into the true essence of Driver’s character as he brutally stamps the man to death.

Irene watches in horror as Driver unleashes his fury in a manner that surpasses protection.

This single moment reflects the duality of Driver’s dilemma, as his desire to assimilate himself into ‘normal’ family life is overshadowed by the dark essence of his true self. 

This moment carries the script to its resolution, which culminates with Driver attempting to settle matters with Nino’s business partner, Bernie.

Drive Ending Explained Driver

The Scorpion And The Frog Meaning

As Driver speaks to Bernie on the phone, he recalls a Russian fable of the Scorpion & The Frog.

In the fable, a scorpion convinces a frog to take it across the river. The frog is hesitant, knowing that scorpions have a tendency to sting, though the scorpion points out that if he does, both of them will drown.

The frog agrees. However, halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog dies, it asks the scorpion why it has broken its promise. The scorpion replies, “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”

The moral is that some creatures are incapable of changing their essence, just as Driver is incapable of changing his.

Drive Ending: The Final Scene

In the final scene, Bernie promises that Irene and Benicio will be safe, but Driver will live the rest of his life fearing Bernie’s revenge. 

As soon as the money is exchanged, Bernie takes Driver by surprise by stabbing him in the stomach. Driver retaliates with equal means by drawing his own knife and stabbing Bernie to death.

This moment draws an interesting parallel between Driver and Bernie, as both their actions reflect that of the scorpion.

The synergy in this final scene echoes the first meeting between these two characters, as Driver refuses to shake Bernie’s hand and simply states, “My hands are a little dirty,” to which Bernie replies, “So are mine.”

Drive Ending Explained Final Image

Drive Ending: The Final Image

The final image depicts a lifeless Driver sitting behind the wheel. 

All of a sudden, Driver blinks and moves into action as he fires up the ignition and drives away. 

Ultimately, the feeling behind Driver’s survival is ambiguous. On the one hand, the optimistic tone of the movie’s finale sheds a glimmer of hope for Driver’s future; the colour palette and soundtrack mirror the sequence where Driver takes Irene and Benicio to the Los Angeles River in his car.

However, given the nature of what has been learnt about the character, the story leaves the audience with the question of whether or not he could ever escape his essence.

For a deep dive into the Drive ending and its relationship between character and theme, click the button below to watch my video essay on the screenplay.

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Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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