Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for an underground crime ring. He’s indebted to the ringleader, Doc (Kevin Spacey). Shortly before his last job to pay his debt, Baby meets Debora (Lily James). As their relationship blossoms, Baby finds himself between two worlds. While he wants to leave everything behind with Debora, he must ensure his life of crime is put behind him, or face the music.
Baby Driver Delivers
Edgar Wright is a wizard. Boiling any of his films down to their bare essentials makes them sound boring (a zombie movie, a cop movie, a rom-com, an alien invasion movie, and a heist movie). They’ve all been done to death. And when adding the layer of slacker/stoner or overly articulate sensitive dudes that populate his worlds, they sound downright insufferable. But, without fail, Wright delivers film making masterclasses. And Baby Driver is no exception.
The film opens with a breathtaking car chase through the streets of Atlanta. Immediately after that, a wonderful tracking shot features Baby walking to a coffee shop and back to his criminal hideout. On paper, those two scenes seem like par for the course for this style of movie. But, Edgar Wright imbues it with so much character and technical prowess that it lands in a class of its own. The rest of the film is quite good, but those opening moments feature some of the best film making in the last five years.
As the film progresses, it catches its breath. The first act runs at a breakneck pace, but the second act takes some time to breathe before launching into a dark deconstruction of heist movies. Once again, the story is by the numbers, but the world and its characters pop off the screen. From top to bottom, the cast is impeccable. Jaime Foxx’s Bats is a ball of id, and he plays him with the perfect amount of obnoxiousness. Doc cares for Baby, but is blinded by his life of crime and can’t help manipulating him. But the real standout here is Ansel Elgort.
Baby is in every scene of the film, and during its hour and fifty-three minutes, he runs the gamut of emotions. One minute, he’s quietly brooding in the corner of the hideout, listening to Doc’s instructions. The next he’s awkwardly trying to charm Debora or dancing to his iPod. It’s a nearly wordless performance, but Elgort conveys so much through his face and body language that it doesn’t matter.
Unfortunately, Baby Driver‘s female characters don’t fare so well. Both Debora and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) occupy space on the back burner. It’s a shame since both actresses deliver great performances. They’re hardly characters, but they leave just as much an impression as the rest of the cast. It’s good for them but bad for the audience. The problem is that they are closely linked to the film’s hero and villain. But, because we don’t know anything about them, it’s hard to care about what happens to them or the results of their actions. Honestly, many films this year failed their characters in bigger ways. But everything about Baby Driver is so meticulous that its warts are incredibly prevalent.
There is a lot more to dissect about Baby Driver. But it’s really just odds and ends about how great it is. I could go on and on about how thematically cohesive it is. Or about how great the soundtrack is. But, I don’t want to ruin all the fun surprises. Baby Driver is a film that people will champion to their friends for years to come. It’s off the beaten path and totally refreshing.
If you are on the receiving end of a friend gushing about how cool the movie is, do yourself a favor and take their recommendation to heart. Sure, the title seems silly (it’s not), but if the title is keeping you from watching a movie, you could stand to be more adventurous with your viewing. Besides, what other film sets its climax to Hocus Pocus by Focus? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to flip over the vinyl to the movie’s soundtrack.
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