Back to the past in Driven
07 November, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Lee Pace and Jason Sudeikis in Driven
Directed by Nick Hamm
JOHN DeLorean’s sports car (that’s the one with the funny doors) has been in the public eye on three separate occasions – and perhaps now for a fourth.
It first came to people’s attention when it was launched with great fanfare. Then, when DeLorean went bust, he garnered much publicity. His car then enjoyed more public exposure when Robert Zemeckis used one as a time machine in Back To The Future… and now, with this controversial film that lays bare his dramatic fall from being a leading car designer to global notoriety, his name is back.
We meet dodgy pilot Jim Hoffman (Jason Sudeikis) as the FBI stop a plane he is about to take off in with his wife and children inside – and a huge consignment of cocaine. He avoids arrest, but to stay at liberty he has to work with slimy FBI spook Benedict Tisa (Corey Stoll).
Despite this rather unwanted attention, Hoffman manages to get himself together enough to move into a rather swanky Californian home – right next door to the famous John DeLorean (Lee Pace).
Hoffman and DeLorean become friends, as DeLorean looks for financing to build his ground-breaking stainless steel-bodied car, their relationship moves to another level.
Whether this is a truthful telling of the DeLorean story is a moot point: his family and backers say it’s nonsense and it contains many inaccuracies that have annoyed fans of the car and the man behind it (the car club that lent the producers a DeLorean say if they’d known what a supposed hatchet job it was, they would never have handed over the keys).
But this does not matter – it doesn’t detract from a funny-looking film with shallow yet enjoyable performances. Its period feel is tacky – expect cheesy disco, massive flares, kipper ties, chunky sunglasses and generally everything fashion-wise that was hilarious about the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is far, far from subtle, but that adds to the silliness and air of fun.
Above all, it is a film about ambition, about feeling untouchable and about assuming your privilege insulates you from playing by the usual rules.
Hoffman comes over sympathetically (he is seen as having a hugely dodgy background, but at heart is a good guy) while the people the viewers really should feel sorry for are Hoffman’s wife, Ellen (Judy Greer) and DeLorean’s partner Christina (Isabel Arraiza).
DeLorean’s behaviour had other, faceless victims, including the thousands of workers in Northern Ireland who were taken on to build the car before he went bust. The financial breaks the British government gave to bring DeLorean across the Atlantic also means the British taxpayer was robbed. This take of unfettered, unpleasant capitalism means this is very much a story for today.