The Passion of Ryan Gosling: Love and sacrifice in 'Drive'

Gareth Higgins says in his book How Movies Helped Save My Soul, 'There is only one meta-narrative: the story of God's redemption of the earth and the race of creatures he made 'a little lower than the angels.'

This series, from writer and comedian Andy Kind, is based on the idea that all stories are trying to convey truth. In that way, they are attempts to tie themselves and us into the Big Story wired into the universe from the start: In the beginning was the Word. All truth belongs to God, and if we look close enough, we can find him hiding in plain sight in any film. For those who have eyes to see, ears to see and popcorn to nibble, movies contain plenty of seeds just looking for good soil.

Drive, 2011 (Director: Nicholas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling)

Drive: the film that single-handedly reinvigorated the leather driving glove market, and the Grand Theft Auto film that Rockstar Games will never make.

FacebookRyan Gosling in 'Drive', 2011.

Drive is an unbelievable film that merges elements of romance, crime and thriller genres to make something rightly described as Art. It's essentially a neon Western – the story of a mysterious and nameless high plains drifter who appears to save the local population from bandits, and then drives off into the sunset, blood-soaked and vindicated.

Many people find the violence excessive and stomach-churning. How can you possibly find a Gospel link here? Two things. Firstly, while the violence is indeed difficult to watch, I would argue that it's never gratuitous. The shocking moment where a man's head is crushed by the Ryan Gosling's boot happens within the same scene and setting as the passionately intimate kiss he plants on Irene (played by Cary Mulligan). The juxtaposition of the two elements acts as a wonderful elevator pitch for Refn's skill as a director, showing how two seemingly conflicting themes can intermingle. To quote When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, 'joy and sorrow flow mingled down.'

The main thing I want to focus on, though, is the lengths the Driver will go to in order to protect Irene's life. The end of the second act sees the Driver's proposition of a life together receive a literal slap in the face. Irene has rejected him, which is what makes the lift kiss so poignant – it's a goodbye from a man who knows he's not welcome. Nevertheless, the Driver spends the 3rd act taking on the forces that would seek to steal Irene's life and that of her son. He would lay down his life for someone he loves, but who has rejected him – someone who doesn't even know his name.

Colossians 2:15 says this: 'Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.' The final showdown of Drive is indeed a public spectacle where Albert Brooks, the major antagonistic power, is left dead in a carpark for all to see. The final moments of the film show a seemingly lifeless driver suddenly revive (or resurrect) and drive off, bleeding profusely, but knowing that his actions have given Irene and her son freedom. By his wounds, they are healed.

The big difference of course is that Jesus' sacrifice didn't require anybody's else's blood to be spilled. The Driver is a complex being, a sacrificial monster. But in the Gospels we read of a someone both truly divine and truly human; who was fully innocent and yet willingly died for people who, not knowing his identity, he knew would reject him.

A real human being, and a real hero.