The Driver: David Morrissey shines in this gritty thriller (Spoilers)

by Matt D
David Morrissey

David Morrissey

If there’s one actor who excels at playing the world-weary every man, it’s David Morrissey. Earlier in the year, we saw him appear in The 7:39 in which he portrayed a businessman who was seemingly stuck in a rut and who tried to alter his daily routine by having an affair.

Tonight’s new three-part drama The Driver sees him playing a similar character in hard-working cabbie Vince, who has played by the rules all of his life. However, Danny Brocklehurst’s drama soon plunges Vince, and the audience, into a dark criminal underworld which will change our lead character’s life forever.

Brocklehurst is keen to portray Vince’s working life in a fairly unglamorous manner, so early scenes see him emptying an elderly customer’s colostomy bag and soon after, he cleans up vomit left in his cab by an incredibly inebriated punter.

Vince’s home life isn’t much better with his wife Ros prioritising her job in customer research and her marathon running over her marriage. It’s clear that Ros is trying to block out Vince almost completely as she dons a pair of headphones whilst completing an early morning run on her treadmill. Ros and Vince’s behaviour is soon explained by the absence of their son Tim in their lives…

Tim’s disappearance from the family home is one of the most intriguing parts of The Driver as its never fully explained. Despite Vince’s claims that Tim is travelling, its apparent that that isn’t the case and it appears that friction between father and son was partly to blame for him leaving the family home. Although daughter Katie is still around, she appears to resent her father and she clearly shows him little respect.

Meanwhile, Vince’s mental state is brought into question when we learn that he’s one point away from being diagnosed as clinically depressed. His problems are later seen on screen as he yells at Katie’s latest boyfriend after he insults Vince one time too many.

David Morrissey

Vince’s life changes forever though with the return of his childhood friend Col, who is played by Morrissey’s long-time friend Ian Hart. Col has recently returned from prison after being banged up for armed robbery, and his personal life is equally as messy as Vince’s. Although Col hopes to be reunited with his former lover, these hopes are dashed when he discovers that she’s pregnant with his twin brother’s child. Soon enough, Col is introducing Vince to some of his criminal associates, including an intimidating man simply known as The Horse…

What starts as a friendly enough poker game ends with The Horse offering Vince several highly paid jobs as a getaway driver. Although Vince initially declines the proposal, he changes his mind after a fantastic set piece which sees him being robbed by two female customers. I felt that The Horse was one of The Driver’s most interesting characters as he appeared outwardly charming, but you knew that he could turn at one second.

When Vince agrees to the job, The Horse gives him a mobile phone and instructs him to always answer it immediately. Soon enough, the mobile’s ominous ring tone denotes danger for Vince as he finds himself transporting hooligans and mysterious packages. It is whilst carting round one of these packages that Vince is pulled over by the police, and his decision to speed off appears to be the turning point in the drama.

This high octane chase sequence was the opening to the episode, and it thrust me into the action almost instantly. I wanted to know why Vince was being chased through the streets of Manchester by the police, and more importantly, why he sped off. The cinematography during this sequence, and indeed throughout the driver, was brilliantly executed, and credit must go to director Jamie Payne and cinematographer David Luther for their work in these scenes.

I found The Driver to be a visually engaging piece, with Luther making the haunting Manchester backdrop a character in and of itself. I found the scenes which followed the bored Vince through the city’s roads to be some of The Driver’s best as they gave the audience context about the monotonous state of our protagonist’s life.

As he has done with several of his dramas, Brocklehust has created a lead character in Vince who blurs the lines between black and white. Brocklehurst makes you understand why Vince decides to stray into the criminal underworld, and still had me rooting for him as he made his escape from the police. By the end of the episode, I really felt I knew all the main players and their motivations; which isn’t always the case after the first instalments of some TV dramas.

One issue I did have though was the way in which this first episode ended, primarily due to the fact that I felt Vince’s escape from the police should have been the climax. As it was, everything that happened afterwards felt a little anticlimactic, and I didn’t feel that this first episode of The Driver had the cliffhanger ending that it deserved.

Ian Hart David Morrissey

Possibly the most engaging element of The Driver however is David Morrissey’s central performance as he perfectly anchors the drama and draws the audience into his world. In a lot of The Driver’s scenes, there’s very little dialogue but Morrissey is still able to successfully convey Vince’s hopelessness, which surely is the mark of any great actor. Morrissey had me invested in Vince’s struggle as we saw him try in vain to communicate with both his wife and daughter whilst at the same time, get over the loss of his son. It was equally great to see the fantastic Ian Hart on screen, and he and Morrissey bounced off each other perfectly in their scenes together.

Meanwhile, Colm Meaney was perfectly cast as The Horse as he employed both charm and menace in equal measure to convince the audience that he could snap at anyone moment. I also felt that Claudie Blakely was great as Vince’s wife Ros, a woman who had shut herself off from the world in order to not properly deal with her family issues.

Overall, I felt The Driver had its moments, but didn’t fully deliver on the promise that the opening scene gave us. On the plus side, the drama is visually stunning and the performances are almost uniformly brilliant, with Morrissey being a particular stand out. At the same time, I felt a little let down by the ending and was a bit underwhelmed by The Driver’s final scene. Thankfully the positives outweighed the negatives and I feel the success of The Driver will hinge on how the compelling nature of the next two episodes.

What did you think to The Driver? Did you enjoy David Morrissey’s performance?

Leave your comments below.