Articles – DRIVE Script Analysis

Violence drives Drive… Refn creates a fever dream that sucks you in. Or maybe you’ll hate it. Drive is a polarizer. It’s also pure cinema, a grenade of image and sound ready to blow. 

Drive: The History

Based on a novel written by James SallisDrive was optioned by producers Marc E. Platt and Adam Siegel not long after it was published. Each producer was drawn to the material for different reasons, but for Platt, there was a nostalgia factor that brought him back to childhood heroes like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. According to Platt…

I was very taken with this little crime story that James Sallis wrote. I felt that the way the world was presented in the book demanded that its true grit be retained in the script. The grit comes from seeing the world from the point of view of Driver in the car. It’s those elements that I felt were critical to retain to make this film a very unique cinematic experience. 2

Adapted by Hossein Amini, the screenplay was a challenge for Amini because the story was non-linear, told with many flashbacks. For a studio film, he felt it was a rare book to adapt because it was short, gloomy and like a poem. According to Amini…

What I loved is that the novelist James Sallis, had these extraordinary characters with a very simple plot running through it; this tiny subplot of a getaway driver getting involved in a bank robbery that goes wrong and then has the mafia coming after him. 3

Drive was originally setup as a vehicle for Hugh Jackman with director Neil Marshall attached in 2008. Their version never got off the ground, but the project eventually found its way to Ryan Gosling. Gosling signed on and chose Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn as the film’s director.

Driven: The Sequel

James Sallis didn’t waste any time. Driven, Drive’s sequel, will be released on April 3rd. I’ve read that both Ryan Gosling and Nicholas Winding Refn have expressed interest in shooting the film version. Book description from Amazon.

Driven is the sequel to Drive, now also an award-winning film. As we exit the initial novel. Driver has killed Bernie Rose, “the only one he ever mourned,” ending his campaign against those who double-crossed him. Driven tells how that young man, done with killing, later will become the one who goes down “at 3 a.m. on a clear, cool morning in a Tijuana bar.” Seven years have passed. Driver has left the old life, become Paul West, and founded a successful business back in Phoenix. Walking down the street one day, he and his fiancee are attacked by two men and, while Driver dispatches both, his fiancee is killed. Sinking back into anonymity, aided by his friend Felix, an ex-gangbanger and Desert Storm vet, Driver retreats, but finds that his past stalks him and will not stop. He has to turn and face it.

Drive: The Theme

“Automobiles are free of egotism, passion, prejudice and stupid ideas about where to have dinner. They are, literally, selfless. A world designed for automobiles instead of people would have wider streets, larger dining rooms, fewer stairs to climb and no smelly, dangerous subway stations.

~P.J. O’Rourke

Driver’s a loner. His boss and driver pimp, Shannon, is his only connection to the outside world. Shannon is a former Hollywood stunt driver turned small business man who has carved a life for himself in just getting by. Discovering a man with as many talents relative to his world as Driver, Shannon knows how to exploit him to pay their bills. You get the sense Driver is grateful, but nothing they do puts him on a track to change.

True fulfillment comes from sacrificing something for someone with no expectation or benefits. Driver acts as a surrogate husband and father to Irene and Benicio without asking for her love in return. He puts his freedom at risk to protect them from Standard’s prison debts. He kills anyone who intends to bring them harm. His life is fulfilled from his selfless acts and that alone gives him the strength to face death.

Drive: The Structure

A strong external goal is absent through the first half of the film. Driver doesn’t seem to have an interest in racing. There’s no real thrill in moonlighting as getaway driver. The mechanic in him is more a means to an end. There’s an absence of anything that truly turns his world upside down until he meets Irene and her son, Benicio.

Drive cruises on internal goals its first fifty-six minutes. It’s all about what he feels looking after Irene and Benicio. He helps them out at the grocery store when their car breaks down. When she finds her way to the shop where he works as a mechanic, Driver lets them inside his world. You get the feeling he’s been waiting to share it for some time. The end of the first act marks a turn where Driver takes an active role in their lives.

Standard, Irene’s husband, is released from prison early in the second act. Driver selflessly backs away from the situation and lets the family have their space, but when Standard’s prison debts put his family in danger, Driver agrees to act as a getaway driver in a pawn shop robbery to pay off the creditors.

Standard’s death marks the midpoint of the film. From that point forward, Driver’s external goal becomes the predominant focus of the film: to protect Irene and Benicio. His assumption of power is discovering the pawn shop robbery ties back to Nino. The turn is discovering Nino’s thug their apartment building. His decision is perhaps the most shocking and violent scene in the film, but regardless of what you think about it, it sets up the tone of the third act. In the third act, Driver’s character arc is complete: he goes from a loner with an unfulfilled life, to a man who gives everything to protect the woman and child he loves.

Drive: The Beats


The first twelve minutes of Drive misrepresents what the film is truly about. It’s reminiscent of typical action prologues crammed into buttery popcorn flicks. It’s sure not the best representation of the theme. Regardless, it’s thrilling, superbly shot, and above all else, a great display of escalating conflict. It’s something to study for what is and what it could have been.


Inciting Incident — minute 17 — Outside the store, Driver discovers Irene’s car won’t start and lends a hand.

Strong Movement Forward — minute 27 — Driver takes Irene and Benicio through LA river drainage canals, ending at a secluded spot that seems like an oasis.

End of Act One Turn — minute 31 — The relationship with Irene and Benicio deepens. Driver takes Irene to and from work; acts as a surrogate father to Benicio.


First Trial — minute 45 — Driver discovers Standard has been the victim of an assault and Benicio witnessed the entire incident. Back at his apartment, Standard informs Driver of the situation. He received protection in jail and now the men are blackmailing him — he must rob a pawn shop, risking both his freedom and family, or face their wrath. He tells Driver they’re coming for Benicio and Irene next.

Midpoint — minute 55 — Standard comes out of the pawn shop. A few feet away from the entrance, a bullet grazes his neck. He falls to the ground. Driver gets out to help, but the pawn shop clerk comes out with a gun drawn and puts a few bullets into Standard, killing him.


Assumption of Power — minute 67 — With Shannon’s help, Driver locates the organizer of the pawn shop setup, Cook. Driver subdues Cook, breaking his hand with a hammer, and gets his boss on the line. He soon realizes how dangerously close it ties back to him and Shannon — it’s Nino. For the first time, we hear how much money the score was — one million in cash — something Nino would most certainly kill for.

End of Act Two Turn — minute 72 — Outside their floor’s elevator doors, Driver confesses the details of Standard’s death to Irene and she slaps him. When the doors open, Driver discovers a man, Tan Suit, and is immediately suspicious. Irene gets inside and Driver follows. On the way down, Driver notices Tan Suit carries a gun — this is one of Nino’s men and he’s here for Irene. He pulls Irene to the other side of him. As far away from Tan Suit as possible, he kisses her.

Decision — minute 73 — Without warning, Driver attacks Tan Suit. Tan Suit doesn’t have a chance to react. Driver gets him to the ground and kicks in his face until he crushes his skull.


Point of No Return — minute 88 – Driver stalks Nino, running his car off the road, and eventually ramming it onto the beach. Injured from crash, Nino attempts to flee, but Driver pursues. Nino seeks safety in the ocean, but Driver catches up and drowns him.

Climax — minute 93 — Driver meets with Bernie to drop off the money. Bernie informs him the money will save Irene and Benicio, but he will die. Driver opens the trunk, revealing the money, and Bernie stabs him in the stomach. Bernie attempts to stab again, but Driver grabs the blade and plunges it into Bernie’s neck, killing him.

Drive: The Analysis

Rob’s provided a detailed, micro-analysis of Drive script and film — which breaks down the protagonist’s characterization, misbehaviors, internal and external goals, theme, central dramatic question, story engines, plus a complete beat breakdown — for free. This is based on Daniel P. Calvisi’s Story Maps method. Dan is a story analyst, screenplay consultant, author and screenwriter. Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay can be purchased from

Click here to download Rob Rich’s Drive screenplay analysis.
written by Rob Rich


  1. Travers, Peter. “Drive | Movie Reviews | Rolling Stone.” 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2012. Link
  2. Drive Press Kit: The Adaption”. FilmDistrict. 2011. Link
  3. Drive Press Kit: The Adaption”. FilmDistrict. 2011. Link