“Get your Ipods on shuffle”
Fast paced and relentless Wright’s newest release is all about making sure your seatbelt is firmly fastened. Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, John Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, and Eliza Gonzalez, Baby Driver is chock full of speed, flash, and heart. There’s something about Wrights ability to blend genres into a new and exciting experience and he doesn’t disappoint. If you’re planning on skipping this one based on trailers alone, they don’t do justice to the fantastical world introduced to us in Baby Driver.
Ansel Elgort plays the titular role of Baby, a young driver with tinnitus who listenes to music set out to pay off a debt to a heist kingpin played about as dry as you would expect from Kevin Spacey. This film does not waste a single frame to get you on Baby’s side immediately by taking a page right out of Marvel’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy by having him singing along to music while the rest of his team carries out the initial heist. It’s a dangerous choice that could immediately kill the momentum of the movie if Ansel didn’t display effortlessly the boyish charm his character will be known for throughout the movie. Wright isn’t a frivolous filmmaker though and peppers quick little character moments showing us his distaste for the violent actions of his team members. These little moments throughout the beginning of the film help sell the direction and growth we see Baby take later on.
The getaway from the initial heist is some of the most kinetic we’ve been given in film to date. You feel the terror mixed with awe that the passengers in Baby’s car feel as he drifts perilously between cars and through alleyways. The Fast and the Furious may give you bombastic set pieces that feature vehicles, but here the car takes center stage. It’s fast and it’s dangerous, but never loses sight of it’s levity. Much like the titular character, the driving in this movie grows and evolves starting out fast and sleek akin to a professional figure skater. As the movie progresses and the environment becomes more disparate it becomes a much more visceral and violent experience a la a professional hockey player checking someone into the glass (this is about the most accurate sports analogy you’ll ever get from me so take it for what it is). I’d to give some credit here to cinematographer Bill Pope. This movie is gorgeous. Colors practically pop out of you, scenes effortlessly transition between their center of focus, and there isn’t a frame that doesn’t stand out as iconic to the films motif. My favorite being a transition from our main characters sunglasses to the window panes of an adjacent build.
Some of my favorite choices made by Wright in this film are with Baby’s personal life which we see next. Giving the main character, who is so completely focused on the music he listens to, a deaf foster parent played by CJ Jones is a stroke of genius by Wright. There’s something captivating about this choice that even more so endears us to Ansel’s portrayal. While every relationship Baby has in his life is infiltrated by music and distraction, this feels deeper and more wrought with intent giving Baby a foundation in a firm morality (if only Zack Snyder could realize this before he ruined the Kent family in Man of Steel). We also meet the main love interest played by Lily James. The romance is childish at best, but the chemistry between these two leads is nothing short of Han solo and Princess Leia caliber. The cynic in me wants to hate this “love at first sight” trope but these two sell it better than any movie in 2017. There’s a bliss between the two that only works with the impetuousness of youth.
As with every movie, things have to fall apart. This comes in the form of Jamie Foxx playing the personification of chaos. This character is a tough sit and I can’t tell whether I hate this character because of how well Jamie Foxx plays it or because it’s just too over the top for this movie. This chaos is the catalyst in which the plot decides to rush forward. The darker the heist world gets, the more baby wants to get out. Nothing for Baby seems to go right once Jamie Foxx’s character is on screen.
Things come to a head when Baby decides to skip town with his newfound love in the middle of a heist. The escalation of tension in this movie is expert only giving way to small character moments further endearing us to Baby and his personal life. The actions spans the entire city moving from foot chases to gun shoot outs to demolition derby style car fights. As things get more disparate for Baby the more desperate he becomes. There are a few interesting turns that take place near the climax, not all of them I completely go with but its always a great choice in a movie that is worth commending when a filmmaker decides to push a morally strong character continually up against a wall and challenge those morals. Baby doesn’t get to take the easy way out. He has to pay for the choices he makes and it’s good storytelling that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the films entire run.
Baby Driver is a fantastic, heart pounding addition to Edgar Wright’s filmography. The action is strong, well shot and varied never falling back into just a car chase movie which would be a safe choice for a movie like this. There are other films in recent memory that tried so hard and wished they could pull of the thrill and cohesion this one pulls off. You’d be hard pressed to find a movie that more expertly integrates the soundtrack into the movie than Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy, but Wright proves he’s more than up to the task of finding something another filmmaker has done and elevating it to new heights. The action on screen is married perfectly to the soundtrack. Gun shots ring out perfectly to musical cues giving it a kinetic and tangible feel when the trigger is pulled. This film is a mix of heist caper and comedy, but its also very much so a musical (don’t let that scare you away).
Ansel Elgort is charming as heck and has a real youthful chemistry with his on screen romance Lily James. A lot of this movie rides on believing in this character, Ansel pulls it off with a similar enthusiasm to Chris Pratt or Oscar Isaac. In fact, there’s not a poor performance in the cast to be had. Edgar Wright has shown time and time again that given the right characters, with the right actors, he can truly create a fantastical world that you not only can believe in but want to be in as well. Jamie Foxx is fear inducing and frustrating to watch on screen. His performance isn’t so much menacing as it is chaotic and unpredictable. John Hamm is unique in is performance “hamming” it up (I’m sorry, I had to) giving us an homage to Bonnie and Clyde with his on screen love played by Eliza Gonzales.
This is a strong film that makes unique and bold choices with an excellent pay off. Fast paced and relentless, Edgar Wright continually ratchets the tension to an edge of your seat climax. That isn’t to say there’s no levity though. Wright brings his unique comedy and charm to Baby Driver that like all of his other movies is stuffed full with references and Easter eggs. Like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver will prove to be just as satisfying on repeat viewings. This is a must see for any Cornetto Trilogy fan, and a must see for fans of well shot action and comedy. Bill Pope is amazing behind the camera here. Steven Price kills it with the soundtrack. Everyone is on point for this fun summer speed run.
Final Score: 9/10
Written by Justin Griswold