Baby Driver Review
From his earliest work on his student shorts to his television work on the Channel 4 programme Spaced and on to his feature films, including the Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Edgar Wright has displayed a unique verse for editing in the service of an incredibly original sense of rhythm. His new film, Baby Driver is an incredibly musical movie. It’s not a musical in the sense that it belongs to the genre but it is musical—an adjective to describe a film that lives and breathes music. A film that is in sync with the joy of music. Literally. Not only does everything coalesce into a cohesive whole, but the audio and visuals are synced up to insanely satisfying results.
Much has been made of the soundtrack and the way it functions as a character in Baby Driver and it is quite an impressive feat. From the opening moments of the film, it's clear that Edgar Wright has complete command over his film's sonic landscape, with such songs as 'Bellbottoms' by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, 'Harlem Shuffle' by Bob & Earl, 'Easy' by The Commodores and, of course, 'Tequila', used to maximise audience pleasure. It's not even that Baby Driver has a good soundtrack, it's that the soundtrack is the film's own secret character. It fleshes out the story and punctuates each moment by, not only, emphasising the character's emotions but expressing entirely new ones. This collection of hits and unknown gems is everything a soundtrack should be and it's a testament to the strengths of the film that it is just one of many highlights.
Of course, what would style be without substance? Baby Driver tells the story of the titular Baby (Ansel Elgort), who is working as a getaway driver for a crime syndicate run by Doc (Kevin Spacey). Every driver needs a quirk and Baby’s special attribute is that he uses his own soundtrack to drown out the damaging tinnitus he has been left with as the result of a childhood accident. When Baby meets his soul mate Debora (Lily James), he decides that he will do anything to break free from his life of crime. Baby Driver functions as half your typical crime story and half something new and different. The story shares more than a few attributes with something like Walter Hill's The Driver or, more recently, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, but Wright's unique voice makes this film sing like nothing else.
As Baby, Elgort is quite good—nimble, charismatic and quite capable in both the dramatic and humorous moments. Elgort and James have chemistry and prove themselves to be very easy to root for. The film doesn't exactly present the two with the height of character development but the pair do function within the framework quite well. Their romance provides a shot of blood that ignites the film’s beating heart. John Hamm is as reliable as ever as a member of the team Baby drives for and Eisa González feels right at home as Hamm’s partner in life and in crime. The true wildcard in the film’s main team is Bats, played by Jamie Foxx—a psychopath who happens to be great at what he does. Foxx can be an inconsistent performer but he is, surprisingly strong here. He is a menacing presence and helps to build a great deal of tension in the middle third, where the film slows down the most. He is a big part of one of Baby Driver’s strongest attributes.
Despite it’s light and fun vibe, Wright’s film really is tense as hell. From the point at which the course of the film becomes apparent, Baby Driver begins to ramp up the tension to an impressive degree. The film’s funny bone hardens and the goings-on begin to feel as if they could go south at any moment. It’s as serious a film as Wright has made so far, topping The World’s End for weight and stakes. Each death comes—and it’s no spoiler to say that they do come—with an amount of weight and solemnity that is quite refreshing and unlike anything that Wright has done before.
For all its positives, Baby Driver might be Wright’s weakest script to date as at times, the film has trouble delivering exposition in a natural manner. As such, the delivery for some of the character’s backstories are slightly laborious, resorting to some fairly obvious clichés in order to flesh the characters out. These clichés extend to an ending that, like many of Wright's films, gives up a perfect grace note to end on in favour of an unnecessary epilogue to tie up some loose ends. Still, Baby Driver remains whip smart and refreshingly unpredictable, including one hell of a moment that begins the third act. This scene elicited a true gasp from nearly everyone in the audience—pretty hard to accomplish in this day and age. From here until its final moment, Baby Driver solidifies itself as another incredibly enjoyable entry in the filmography of one of modern film’s great entertainers.