Reviews: Baby Driver
Nobody put Baby in a Corolla
Baby Driver is an action heist film from too talented by half director Edgar Wright who made Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim among others. Our main character Baby is a talented getaway driver who is a little off, a little young, and who listens to music on an old iPod all the time to cover for his tinnitus that he got in a tragic childhood incident. The plot itself is a simple affair that would not be out of place in a Grand Theft Auto movie adaptation. Baby needs to do “one more job” for creepy boss Kevin Spacey (who let's face it is even creepier in the role now) while his heist mates are heavily tattooed, unstable, violent sociopaths that are often not all that bright. Baby has fallen for a diner waitress who shares his love of music and road trips and they plan to drive off into the sunset after his task is completed. I am sure this will go smoothly. The Good: Some movies are extremely well directed and you are never the wiser except perhaps in retrospect (Logan Lucky). Other movies are extremely well directed and are not afraid to shout this out during the film (Dunkirk). Baby Driver is definitely in the latter category. From the opening long take where the scenery and character and extras are all perfectly timed to the music to the driving sequences done in real time without CGI the every minute detail direction is all over the place. The is a finely crafted film. Baby Driver is also an entertaining film. If a film adaptation of say Grand Theft Auto V sounds entertaining to you then you are in for a treat. By making our protagonist a little off and his cohorts so very violent Baby Driver also creates tension in scenes where lesser films would have none. It also has a decent sense of humor with a “Halloween” mask gag being particularly funny. Needless to say the movie sports a decent soundtrack as well. The Bad: Emma Stone was originally supposed to play the diner waitress in the film (she did La La land instead) and the movie suffers for it. Lily James does her best but simply cannot overcome an underwritten role. In Conclusion: Kevin Spacey probably cost this film a best director Oscar nomination and a host of another end of the year accolades. His scenes can be awkward or unintentionally funny in hindsight. I liked this movie more upon reflection than right after the original viewing (Yes the ending grated on me as well) and some of the hokier heartstring tugging scenes still leave me a bit cold. Some people will have a visceral dislike of this movie and I get that. It is a truly artificial construct with a lead character that seems to morph as the script dictates. I liked the little touches, the music, the fun cameos and the overall ride. It really is the Grand Theft Auto V film adaptation I didn’t know I wanted by a director who never fails to entertain.
Pure Kinetic Energy
For those who love the work of Edgar Wright. For those who thought Drive was too slow and restrained. For those who like having fun at the movies. Baby Driver is absolutely worth a look. This isn't just another great rendition of the stoic-idiosyncratic-getaway-driver formula. It's just a great movie. Every scene is made to be in sync with the film's dynamite soundtrack, which serves to put us in the shoes of the protagonist as well as the function of wrapping the audience up in its endlessly shifting rhythm. It is a very immersive movie in this way, which is one of the best compliments I can bestow upon any work of fiction. What I really appreciate is that the movie doesn't settle for being a flashy, lighthearted car chase flick. The story is rather serious in spite of all the fun it offers. As we discover, it simply features a hero who is actively trying to distance himself from the severity of his situation for his own peace of mind. Wright is very good at balancing wicked entertainment with a fair amount of pathos in his movies. In this respect, Baby Driver is more like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz than Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or The World's End. It gives you everything you crave yet doesn't shy away from the true heart within the story and characters or break faith with its spirit. Putting that aside, the movie is absolutely brilliant on a technical level. I've already mentioned the interplay between its music and choreography, but the stunts are all done practically; little to no CGI, and all filmed in smooth, easy-to-follow cinematography. Every chase or action scene just glues your eyes to the screen. The acting is all terrific, every character perfectly cast and giving it their all; Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm all play excellent and surprising bad guys. The one I was least certain about going in, Ansel Elgort as "Baby", turned out to be the one I enjoyed the most; even as the others are hamming it up, his subdued, largely physical performance is what centers the movie throughout. I even thought Lily James was wonderful as Deborah, Baby's Satellite Love Interest. All in all, I felt Baby Driver was immensely satisfying. Check it out.
Was he slow? No.
I was talked into going to this with a friend who liked it being advertised as a Fast and Furious-style action comedy. What I got was the most glorious music video I've ever seen. Now, I should start with the fact that I love me an action movie. Give me a cool fight scene and I'll love a film. Considering I managed to like Hardcore Henry and Assassin's Creed despite their many, many faults, I found this movie uniquely awesome. Baby only kills one person directly, and in self-defense no less. Baby himself is a cute, fun character to follow around and the movie never lets you forget. While Debora's somewhat by the numbers and Doc's inconsistent, it makes up for it with having some cool villains like Bats. Or Buddy, come the climax. As for the action? Whereas most good action films like John Wick rack up massive bodycounts, Baby Driver is very unique with its car-based and parkour-styled action sequences. It doesn't come off as boring or by-the-numbers ever, and it's fun to watch. That said, Baby, much as I like him, definitely falls heavily into Designated Hero territory for me, Debora is seriously by-the-numbers, if likeable, and Doc's personality switches from wanting to kill Baby's loved ones to loving Baby like a son. Nevertheless, I loved it quite a bit. Rating: 9.5/10.
Baby Driver is an exceptionally good film in a way that's easy to pin down. It's like if Scott Pilgrim was The Transporter. It's like if all of the coolest bits of the Devil May Cry games were car chases. It is, above all else, perhaps even the very definition of the following word; stylish. But don't think for one second that it's style over substance. Baby Driver has plenty of substance, it just happens to synchronize very well with the style. As in, almost every scene in the film literally synchronizes up with the soundtrack, which contains music from the likes of Queen, The Beach Boys, T. Rex, Blur, Golden Earring, Focus (who really should have a Tropes page too by now), Danger Mouse, and the title tune by Simon & Garfunkel. You'd think that it might get a little cheesy having the music coincide with car chases, shoot-outs and coffee runs, but it never reaches that level, staying consistently entertaining throughout. Baby Driver is the story of Baby, who is a Driver, so it's not exactly hard to follow. Baby is the token sympathetic member of a constantly-changing crime posse run by Kevin Spacey, with supporting roles by Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, and Jon Hamm, and to divulge anything else would probably be a spoiler. So trust me, it's good. I especially like... oh boy, trying not to spoil here; I like that the film is quite unpredictable, and I understand that giving any examples of ways in which it is unpredictable will stop it from being unpredictable, but let's just say that the film keeps you guessing which of two characters is going to end up being the Big Bad, and the outcome is a surprise. And Kevin Spacey can flawlessly switch from Benevolent Boss to Bad Boss and back again so entertainingly that it's an art form. There is one noticeable problem. The love interest, played by Lily James, Debora. Edgar Wright said that he first had the idea for this film twenty-three years ago, and Debora is definitely a love interest from that time period. She's not terrible, she just very clearly graduated from the school of being the romantic lead in a forgettable film from The '90s. She has a few sentences of backstory, no family or friends, or ambition, or personality really, and as far as I can tell, she works at a diner twenty-four hours a day, waiting for the main character of the film to walk in so that they can immediately and unconvincingly fall in love with each other in a matter of days. But even this is just a speed bump - I still liked Debora on the whole - and I like the film as a whole very, very much. It's a fast-paced adrenaline-fuelled brilliantly-executed and superbly-stylish action-comedy. It's what The Fast and the Furious films would be like if they were any good. Scoot down the road, what's my number? 9/10. I wonder how your engines feel.