Review: Baby Driver | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Baby Driver

Film's Sam Houseman is blown away by Baby Driver, the latest from stylish British auteur Edgar Wright

Summer. ‘Tis the season of the popcorn movie. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, Wonder Woman, Transformers: The Last Knight and Spider-Man: Homecoming are just some of the big franchise movies to have already been released. Ironically, if it wasn’t for the studio behind the latter film having ‘creative differences’ with Edgar Wright’s direction of Ant-Man, Baby Driver may have resided in development hell. That scenario would have been devastating, as Baby Driver delivers a cinematic experience unlike any other this film season. Wright’s style is incredibly unique and thus it’s very possible that it would not be seen to fit with a studio’s approach to their blockbuster movies. Is that a shame? Without a doubt. Will it limit Wright’s career? Not in the slightest.

One of the most original films in recent years, Baby Driver centres around the titular Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver in debt to crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) and has been in his employ ever since his feet could reach the pedals. However, after meeting and falling for diner-waitress Debora (Lily James) Baby decides he wants out of the game. Before he can though Doc recruits him for a final heist which brings together a team of the most dangerous criminals in his employ. The character of Baby suffers from tinnitus and as a result constantly plays music to drown it out while driving, with different iPods for every mood, which creates the movie’s fantastic soundtrack.

Baby Driver delivers a cinematic experience unlike any other this film season
Wright has created a pseudo romantic musical of sorts that contains all the action and thrills craved by audiences this time of year. In his breakout directorial, Shaun of the Dead, a memorable scene involves Simon Pegg, albeit in character, and his cohort beat a zombie to death with pool cues in time to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. Here, his approach treats every action scene like a musical number, with every gun shot, door slam, and tire screech synced to the music playing through Baby’s headphones. Wright writes every song into his screenplay, letting the music orchestrate the narrative whereas typically music is added in post-production, a bold decision as sometimes studios can struggle to acquire the rights to use certain songs. But this flair and determination to break the mould with every movie, pays off enormously here.

Another of the film’s biggest strengths lies in its cast of characters. Doc’s heist crew is composed of unique individuals who each bring something different to the table, and not only do the actors’ hone their roles, but the enjoyment seemingly had in playing their respective characters comes across too. As Bats (Jamie Foxx) so eloquently puts it himself, “I’m the one got the mental problems in the crew”. Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González) bounce off each other nicely as the team’s Bonnie and Clyde, with Hamm particularly putting in an excellent third-act performance.

The film’s biggest strengths lies in its cast of characters
Not forgetting the man who ties them all together, Spacey’s Doc is ruthless and calculating yet surprisingly paternal. Even the more minor characters like Baby’s adoptive father Joseph (CJ Jones) add something, showing us how Baby learned to sign and lip read. This in turn creates one of the film’s standout moments as Baby precisely regurgitates Doc’s rundown of a heist, due to his lip reading skills, much to Bats’ disbelief as Baby sits there blankly, listening to music.

However If there is one character who could perhaps do with a bit more of depth and backstory, love interest Debora would benefit from it. Her romance with Baby is pivotal to the plot yet audiences may not invest in it as it is set up very quickly with Debora making life-changing decisions that seem rash and outlandish. Still, take nothing away from James’ performance in the film; she is captivating and has great chemistry with Elgort. Part of the fact as an audience you want to learn more about Debora is that she successfully entices audiences to invest in the character, just not so much in the romance.

Speaking of whom, Ansel Elgort as a leading man is something that may have initially raised a few eyebrows leading up to the film’s release; his performances in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series aren’t necessarily bad, but they also don’t really solidify him as a natural fit for this type of role.

You remain aware that this is an Edgar Wright film with his incredible editing and cinematography
But that’s who Baby is too; someone who feels slightly out of place in his current environment, forced to hide his vulnerabilities behind a cold exterior due to his place of work, and Elgort nails the part under Wright’s direction. A perhaps counterintuitive piece of casting by Wright, much like Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Elgort brings his A game to both the action and more intense moments and deserves all the plaudits.

Everything in Baby Driver feels fresh and organic whilst you remain aware that this is an Edgar Wright film with his incredible editing and cinematography. The opening fifteen minutes contains an exhilarating car chase followed by a tracking shot title sequence as Baby goes on a coffee run to the beat of ‘Harlem Shuffle’ by Bob & Earl, with audio from the street synchronising and words from the song appearing in graffiti as they are sung. The latter scene wouldn’t go amiss in films like La La Land whereas Wright’s said he first conceived the opening after listening to ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues in his early twenties which made him visualise a car chase, interweaving two differing sequences and creating something innovative. What Wright does exceptionally is he always seeks new aspects and angles to approach his films that he can marry to the qualities he has already mastered – a director striving to push himself further rather than settling for more of the same.

Verdict:  For many, it is the knowledge that Wright directed that will encourage them to go and see the film, but for those who don’t know the name, driving down to the cinema to learn it is a must. Just try to avoid attempting Baby’s driving when travelling home afterwards.

Rating: 9/10

First year Drama and English student, interested in film, gaming and popular culture. (@samm_houseman)



Published

11th July 2017 at 9:00 am



Images from

Kenyabuzz, Heroic Hollywood and Sony Pictures



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