Baby Driver Review

Since Baby Driver has been out for a few weeks now, I’ve decided to talk about the film in its entirety, so consider this your Spoiler Warning. With that out of the way…

Y’all. Lets talk about this movie.

You simply cannot discuss this film without discussing -and praising- its director. This is the first directorial effort we’ve gotten from Edgar Wright since 2013’s The World’s End, and my goodness, was it worth the wait. Movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shawn of the Dead, the aforementioned World’s End, and my (former) favorite, Hot Fuzz, all have a distinctive style. When watching any of Wright’s films, you can see his fingerprints all over it. With Baby Driver, not only does this trend continue, but it is elevated. Though Wright never makes an appearance on screen, I could clearly see him in his work. This is a testament to the skill and devotion Wright has to his craft. I wasn’t apart of the scripting, shooting or editing process, but this movie feels like pure Edgar Wright in all his glory, and It takes an incredibly talented director to execute their vision this well.

Also earning every ounce of credit thrown his way, is Ansel Elgort as the titular Baby. I had heard people saying to keep an eye on him, but I wasn’t convinced… until now that is. He shows incredible the range in this movie without being flashy. The intensity during the heist sequences, the comedy and levity during his interactions with his foster father, to the all to familiar  “deer in the headlights” emotion of talking to a girl and falling in love. I believed every second of his performance, which goes a long way coming from a character who constantly wears sunglasses and talks as little as possible. In the very opening scene of the movie, Baby pulls up to the target of the crew’s heist. When the other three members of his team exit the car and enter the bank, Elgort switches from a stoic calm to pure bliss as the music kicks in and he gets to cut loose. At that moment, I was hooked on the film, and our leading man.

If nothing else, Elgort’s performance makes me believe that some kid can actually pull off the mind-blowing stunts you see on screen. All of which, by the way, were practical and done in camera. It’s so refreshing to see a movie that relies so heavily on its stunt sequences, to not also rely heavily on CGI. I’m not someone who thinks that CGI is ruining modern day movies, but I’d be lying if I said the practicality of this film didn’t add to my experience.

Lily James, as Debora (not Debra), is also a delight. Watching her and Baby go back and forth, it’s easy to see why they fell in love, and I caught myself smiling every time they interacted. She’s a well defined character who doesn’t fall into the trope of being on screen solely to be pretty and motivate our protagonist.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single performance that wasn’t fantastic. Even Jon Bernthal, who only briefly appears, is still given enough to create a character, not just an actor reading lines to move the plot forward. Side note: Bernthal’s character’s last words are “If you don’t see me again, it’s cause I’m dead.” Then he walks off into the parking lot, keeping a watchful eye over his shoulder, never to be seen again. It’s moments like this that make the experience all the more delightful.

Jamie Foxx, as one of the films early antagonists, Bats, is crazy in the best way possible. His character constantly on edge, riding the line between violent psychosis, and playing twisted games. Every second he’s on screen, you’re never allowed to get comfortable. There’s a constant tension from the fear of what lurks beneath the surface, and what he might do next.

Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm, both expectedly excellent, play very different, yet oddly complementary character. When the story starts, Spacey, the orchestrator of the heists, is cold and calculated, seemingly caring about the score and nothing else. He uses his power over Baby to control his every move, with no regard to how it affects him. However, as the film goes on, you watch that hard exterior start to crack, and then eventually break when he see’s that Baby is in over his head. As Baby and Debora decide to run, Spacey goes full father figure, giving Baby a bag full of cash and instruction on how to get away clean. This turn comes full circle, when Spacey gives his life so that his protégé can go and lead a life free of crime.

Buddy (Hamm), on the other hand, goes the opposite way. Starting as the only member of the crew to attempt take Baby under his wing, we watch his descent into the films third act villain. What starts as praise for Baby’s driving skills, and a shared bond over the “perfect song” turns into a singular vision to take our young lovers out, no matter the cost. But all of this is believable. A broken trust in the diner, catching Baby sneaking out the night before the job, and the final nail in the coffin, Baby’s decision that leads to the death of Darling, Buddy’s wife. You completely understand Buddy’s transformation.

Speaking of Darling, this is the first thing I’ve ever seen Eiza Gonzáles in, and I want more of her in everything right now. What could have become a bland “Gorgeous Girl with a Gun,” she filled her character with so much charisma, and you could see how much fun she was having. Her performance in this alone makes me want to go back and watch the From Dusk Till Dawn series.

Now, finally, lets talk about the soundtrack. This glorious, wonderful soundtrack. This movie, and Edgar Wright, understand how to use music in a way that not many other film makers have. Each one of the incredible actions sequences, is edited to its “perfect song.” The songs don’t just enhance their scenes, they become apart of it. The music as much a character as Baby himself. Compare this to another popular movie that leaned heavily on it’s soundtrack: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Specifically, the “Brandy” scene. I thought Guardians 2 was a fun movie, and “Brandy” by Looking Glass is a national treasure, but I thought the scene felt forced and awkward.

On the flip side, when Baby Driver opens with “Bellbottoms,” it provides you with unique insight into who Baby is, with a bitchin’ backing track to boot. Even in the climactic final showdown (set to “Brighton Rock” by Queen, the greatest band of all time), the music doesn’t come across as cheesy, but rather plays a key role and enhances not only the tone, but holds weight in regards to the characters and plot.

I’ve been listening to this soundtrack on repeat since I walked out of the theater, and every single song takes me back to a specific moment on the film. If that’s not the mark of a great soundtrack, I don’t know what is.

While I’ve spent the last 1000 words praising this film, its not without its flaws. There are a couple of pacing issues, and I think the film would be well served about ten to fifteen minutes shorter. The scene in the warehouse, while spectacularly well made, feels like some fat they could have trimmed off. Also, even though the chemistry between Elgort and James is phenomenal, boy did those kids seem to fall in love quick. Other than that, I love this damn movie.

I can’t think of another time where I left the theater this excited. Watching this movie was a pure cinematic joy. I’m telling everyone I know to get out and see it, and talking endlessly about it with those who have. Baby Driver is one of those films that’s going to inspire a generation of filmmakers. Its without question my favorite film of the year so far, and I can’t wait to see what Wright gives us next.

Rating:  4.85 – Phenomenal

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