The idea of an influencer, appearing as authentic but essentially promoting an image and products, has recently gained attention in popular media despite its existence for some time. This concept aligns with the current state of society, which is reminiscent of the self-centeredness of the 1980s but with more severe and troubling consequences. These themes are central to Park Dong-hee’s action thriller “Drive”, where an influencer is the main character and explores the idea of authenticity, selling out for popularity and the impact of social media on one’s sense of self.
“The film Drive is being shown at Asian Pop Up Cinema.”
For a while now, Han Yuna (Park Ju Hyun) has been creating videos showcasing her cooking skills with pancakes and her singing attempts. Gradually, she has gained success as an influencer on social media, with multiple companies sponsoring her content and a professional producer supporting her. She has become a prominent streamer and is on the verge of finalizing a lucrative new contract that would solidify her as the top influencer. However, after promoting a cosmetics brand, she suddenly finds herself trapped in the back of her own car.
When her phone rings, the person who kidnapped her instructs her to live stream and inform her followers about what is happening to her. The purpose is to persuade them to donate money so she can be released before midnight, or else she will perish shortly after. With no other option, she complies, but soon discovers that her captor has more planned for her. He is among her viewers, forcing her to confront her past and disclose her most private and hidden secrets.
It is undeniable that director and screenwriter Park Dong-hee is knowledgeable about his subject. From the beginning montage, which showcases Yun’s social media fame, to her attendance at events and negotiation of new contracts for endorsements on her channel, it is evident that he has extensively researched this specific field. While some of his comments may not be well-received and seem forced, others, such as the connection between an influencer’s self-image, commercial success, and popularity, are thought-provoking and elevate “Drive” beyond its action-thriller genre. It is surprising, then, that he takes a somewhat easier route with the ending, as it could have been more gratifying and biting compared to what it currently is.
In regards to its execution and suspenseful style, “Drive” presents some notable elements. Park Ju-hyun, in her second lead role, delivers a fantastic portrayal as a streamer whose carefully crafted persona starts to crumble under the circumstances she faces. She must shed all the layers of facade and deception that make up her character, built over time. Furthermore, due to the physical constraints of the plot, with most of the film taking place in the protagonist’s car trunk, the success of “Drive” relies heavily on her performance, which she executes skillfully.
From a technical standpoint, “Drive” covers well-known genre conventions. The action sequences, particularly a thrilling car chase, are presented through multiple camera angles (possibly imitating footage from various bystanders). This approach creates moments of tension and impact, but at times can feel excessive. The editing in these scenes is skillfully executed, showcasing the director’s ability to orchestrate them, while the heavy bass music can be overwhelming.
Although “Drive” does not completely revolutionize the genre, it offers thought-provoking commentary on influencers and their problematic tendencies, making Park Dong-hee’s film intriguing. This is largely due to Park Ju Hyun’s strong performance as the lead. Technically, the film is well-made, although some aspects, like the music, could benefit from further refinement.