- If you loved Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, you’ll love this – Edgar Wright’s masterpiece
- Lovable characters with charismatic, excellent performances
- Thrilling action with some of the best car scenes in cinema
- Enough comedy to keep you laughing
- One of the best movie soundtracks
- Main female character doesn’t get to do much and is relegated to a love interest (but such a lovely character played so well, it almost doesn’t matter…)
It’s not unknown for great British directors to pick up and go to America to seize the opportunity to create bigger, better movies. Alfred Hitchcock is a good example; Charlie Chaplin and Ridley Scott are others; and so is Edgar Wright. Known for stylish films packed with crazy fun, from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it is this kind of cinematic thrill we expect from Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver. Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint; Wright is clearly on top of his game.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a music-loving getaway driver, constantly with earphones in, working for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). He drives the likes of Griff (Jon Bernthal), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) to and from robberies, making sure they evade the cops. Determined and confident he’s finished with that life after paying off Doc what he owed, he forms a romance with beautiful waitress and fellow music-lover Debora (Lily James). However when he’s pulled back in for one more job by Doc, he’s forced to work with volatile psychopath Bats (Jamie Foxx) who leads everyone down a dangerous road and makes this last job Baby’s most dangerous drive yet…
In terms of plot it’s a typical ‘one-last-job-and-I’m-out’ crime story, yet despite this it’s still very unique in its own way; largely because this film has neither an over-reliance on story or, like too many blockbusters today, an over-reliance on action. There is a well-displayed balance between the two, showing the skill of both Wright’s directing and writing. Yet there being such a simple story means there’s more time to spend with the characters; to get to know them, to love some, to hate some and to be surprised by some. There are notably some scenes without story progression or dialogue (such as Baby grabbing coffee), yet these are still nevertheless a joy to watch, letting us live the film, but most of all allowing us a glimpse into Baby’s mind and to see the world through his eyes. Yet when there’s story, it’s good fun and thrilling to watch; twists to keep it engaging and exciting, the whole movie builds up to one hell of a sensational finale, avoiding being a stereotypically predictable action movie.
Yet it’s still an action movie – and thank goodness for that because the action is wonderful. It’s best in the finale, yet it’s peppered throughout the whole film and is exemplary of how well choreographed and filmed action films can (and should) be when a master is behind the camera. With one instance of shocking violence for you gore fans, the action scenes keep you on the edge of your seat, eyes bulging and heart racing. This is how car chases should be and this movie has some of the best, thrilling and imaginative car scenes since Mad Max: Fury Road.
Credit also has to be given to the editing, without which those exciting scenes wouldn’t have the heart-pounding effect they do and the comedy wouldn’t be so ‘Wright-esque.’ In fact, snappy, precise editing is a an aspect that epitomises Wright’s style (the humour in the Cornetto trilogy consistently reliant on editing and timing) and he really seems to have perfected it in this film. Not only in the action scenes, but throughout the entirety – so many movements are perfectly timed to fit the constant music playing in Baby’s earphones that we hear with him. Cinema’s reliance on music and timing is even mocked a couple of times when Baby refuses to start driving until the right song or right part of a song is playing.
This motif of music is an interesting one and helps with the characters, specifically Baby and his deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones). In fact this is the best “musical” since La La Land… actually, it’s probably even more of a musical than La La Land; the music’s as consistent as Les Miserables with the best movie soundtrack since the first Guardians of the Galaxy; a variety of catchy, famous songs that bring so much to the movie (a confrontation scene towards the end, for example, wouldn’t be remotely sexy without Barry White’s ‘Never, Never Gonna Give You Up’). These songs sometimes have the potential to say more about Baby’s character than any of his actually lines do, showing we don’t always need Tarantino levels of dialogue to develop and get to know a character (not a criticism of Tarantino, just a comment on how Wright is a master in his own, different way). This film is a music nerd’s dream and Baby will no doubt enter cinema and music iconography.
As always it’s crucial to have an interesting central character and Baby certainly is. Ever enigmatic and likeable, Elgort’s every move shows us everything he needs for Baby’s character to come through, the phrase ‘a picture says a thousand words’ seeming very apt to both Elgort’s performance and Baby’s character. The supporting cast too are as perfect as you could imagine; Jon Hamm goes from comedic and charming to something massively different in the third act, yet always retains his wonderful charisma; Eiza Gonzalez too by his side make them a wonderful pair, bringing comedy and depth to the characters, requiring little exposition and bringing such a force to the film. Jamie Foxx’s psychotic and violent Bats is arguably the film’s bad guy and brings such detestable malice to the film, every violent action, every threat he makes we feel and we empathise with Baby’s worries and reactions to them. And of course there’s the ever-wonderful Kevin Spacey, who’s sarcastic, funny lines couldn’t be said better by anyone else, bringing an odd but fascinating concoction of paternal love and menace all in one character, sometimes even at the same time.
Honestly the only flaw I have with this film is Lily James’ character Debora, but even that isn’t a huge flaw. My issue is that she seems to be very passive and too side-lined. Her character is the love interest and doesn’t actually do much, doesn’t have much agency – which is a shame. Lily James is wonderfully charming, beautiful and delightful as Debora, bringing so much personality to what was already a loveable character on paper. So I have no criticism about her, just praise. I just wish Wright had given her more to do and that she had more of an impact on the story that the character deserves. Despite this though, Lily James and her character, like everyone in this film, is fantastic and even this flaw can be overlooked because of this.
As much as I love the Cornetto trilogy, it’s obvious that Edgar Wright doesn’t need to rely on Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to make a funny, exciting and wonderful film. Baby Driver ticks every box you could ever need; exciting, thrilling and perfectly choreographed action scenes – tick; imaginative, awe-inspiring car stunts – tick; comedy – tick; deep, rich characterisation and wonderful performances – tick; a simple, but engaging narrative – tick; iconic music that’ll make you want to download the soundtrack – tick; a movie that will stay with you and be one of your favourites – tick. I cannot recommend and praise this film more. With Baby Driver Edgar Wright takes us on one hell of a sensational, heart-pounding ride with lovable characters, thrilling action, hilarious comedy with a top-notch soundtrack. Strap on your seatbelt and get ready for it!