TL;DR – If you love the art of filmmaking, or cars pulling off impossible yet possible stunts, or well make films, then this is one for you
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Today I’m doing something I have not had the chance to do before, see an Edgar Wright film up on the big screen. I have been a fan of his work for a while now, I would put Hot Fuzz on my top ten films of all-time list. However, I have never been able to see one of his films up on the big screen, well depending on how you classify Ant-Man (review). So as I walked into the screening there was a giddiness that I have not experienced before, but also some hesitation. Could I have built this film up so much that it would never live up to the hype? Well to make sure I was an impartial viewer, and not wearing rose-tinted glasses, I brought a friend along with me to keep me grounded. So what did I think? Well, let’s get started, but come on you already saw the score.
To set the scene, we’re in Atlanta, Georgia, and we’re introduced to Baby (Ansel Elgort) an escape driver that Doc (Kevin Spacey) uses on all his heists. Baby suffers from tinnitus, a constant ringing in his ears from a childhood trauma, or as it’s called in the film ‘a hum in the drum’ so he listens to music to drown it out. Baby lives a very modest life with his foster father Joseph (CJ Jones) saving up until he is free of the debt he owes Doc, but the question is, will Doc just let him walk away? This set up immediately draws you into this world that exists underneath ours, you are drawn to the characters and that has a lot to do with the actors themselves.
So when you name your movie after your lead character, they have to be compelling or else things just won’t work. Now while I have seen Ansel Elgort in a couple of things, I was not prepared for just how well he fits this character, and the range he would need to pull it off. For the movie to work, you need to connect with Baby, his struggles, and root for him, even when he’s helping people rob banks. We can do this because we get to see both sides of Baby’s life, both work and home. When he is home, away from the underground work, he opens up and we see joy. For so much of the start of the film he is very reserved, but as he swings around his father’s house he comes alive, and it is a joy to watch. Ansel Elgort is giving everything to this role and this commitment shows in everything from the choreography to stunt racing. One of the things that I think helps set Baby apart is that he is surrounded by some truly repugnant people. Doc is cold, calculating, no-nonsense, and is perfectly fine with making threats to kill innocent people, you have Griff (Jon Bernthal) who constantly mocks Baby just because he’s odd, Bats (Jamie Foxx) who has no compunction killing anything that gets in his way, or Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González) who through their lovey personas actually feel more wrong given the setting. However, even in this world, there are those who help ground Baby, first his father and also Debora (Lily James) a waitress at a local dinner who shares his desire to leave and never look back. You will like and hate the character in Baby Driver because they are well written and also well-acted, I mean Kevin Spacey commands ever scene he is in.
From here we have to spend some time talking about the technical side of the film because if you enjoy the process of filmmaking, then you are going to love Baby Driver. Of course, the driving stunts, which I believe were mostly captured in-camera, were spectacular. I know today people have thrown around phrase like ‘on the edge of my seat’ like they were sausage sizzles out the front of a Bunnings, but I have to say I literally found myself there, as they zipped through traffic, also you can see little glimpses of this in his previous films, with Hot Fuzz having one of the best car chases in movie history, in about 2 seconds. More so than this, Edgar Wright has a style of filmmaking that is constantly engaging visually, while not falling into the trap of being bombastic. He also has a way of making a single frame speak volumes when no one is saying a word. A good example of this is at the start where we stop to take a look inside an elevator, and from just how the picture is framed we can learn so much about who these people are and what drives them. By know, you probably know how important the music is, but it is such a wonderfully eclectic mix of Egyptian Reggae, to the Beach Boys, to Queen, this mix will both excite you and make you go hunting some of these songs down after. However, it is not just that Baby Driver has a great soundtrack, it’s the way that the music is incorporated into the movie in some really clever ways. A lot of these points coalesce in one particular scene where Baby goes to get coffee and dances along to the music. As he swings around Atlanta the lyrics from the song appear as graffiti around Baby, and of course as I was marvelling at this my brain finally twigged that ‘wait we haven’t cut yet’ not only was this hitting every mark with the song, but they were doing in one long take. It’s a movie that you will want to go back and see again just to take it all in, which also means that there is so much more I want to point out, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
All of this being said, there were a couple of issues that I had with it, though of course, these are very minor issues. [SPOILER] The first is that it did feel like the ending dragged on a little too much, there were just a few too many nope he’s not actually dead moments, that might not have been an issue, but by that time we have had such a ride to get to where we are, you were ready to see how it ends. Also, you need to be prepared for the fact that there might be some characters that will appear, be amazing, and then disappear never to be seen again [End of SPOILERS]. Now as I said these are minor things but they are there.
In the end, I think the best thing I can say is that writing this review was actually quite hard to write in places because I had made so few notes during the film, instead I was being sucked into this world and everything about it. So do we recommend Baby Driver, of course, we do, it is an amazingly fun film, and a technical masterpiece and one I’m sure I’ll go see more than once on the big screen. Though one word of advice, if you are driving home after the movie, take a bit more care and pay attention, now is not the time to take that corner like that, you’re not ready for that yet.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Baby Driver
Directed by – Edgar Wright
Written By – Edgar Wright
Music by – Steven Price
Cinematography by – Bill Pope
Edited by – Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss
Starring – Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, CJ Jones, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Flea & Lanny Joon
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R