Baby Driver, 2017.
Written and Directed by Edgar Wright.
Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Eiza González.
After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Not too long ago as I was browsing my Twitter feed I saw writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) telling a group of contest winners at an advanced screening for Baby Driver to not go get popcorn (presumably the movie was about to begin) as the opening scene is apparently not to be missed.
They went anyway. They missed out. The world kept turning, and everyone that stayed (including future non-idiot moviegoers) witnessed what is already one of the most iconic openings for a film ever. Right off the bat, Edgar Wright establishes the madcap mixed tone for his heist crime/love story, as getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort of The Fault in Our Stars fame) rocks out in the chosen escape vehicle, shades on, humming along to lyrics, all with various objects like windshield wipers swinging back and forth in tune to the song. In the background, a bank is being robbed with innocent civilians being threatened and possibly murdered cold. Then the trio of criminals return for Baby to make the great escape, also set to that same beat. Baby Driver is the first movie of its kind and anything else that follows (unless it’s also directed by Edgar Wright) will only be a pale, soulless, bland imitation.
Stemming from an idea that Edgar Wright once utilized in a music video, Baby Driver is all about implementing licensed music to its greatest effect. Suffering from Tinnitus (a constant ringing in the eardrums leftover from a fatal childhood car accident that also took the lives of his parents), Baby maximizes usage out of numerous iPods to drown out the painful noise, playing songs often featuring lyrics and tempos that express his feelings and current mood. He even has a habit of making gestures and interacting with pedestrians on the street to further get into the song, subsequently placing the film on a tightrope between a musical and reality. There really is nothing quite like it, as Edgar Wright consistently experiments with what he can accomplish.
The answer is a lot, as the script isn’t very concerned with following any contemporary narrative structure, but rather bringing Baby from scene to scene differently taking advantage of the eclectic soundtrack. Whether it’s a warehouse shootout where EVERY SINGLE BULLET is fired off in conjunction to a funky beat, or a beloved rock song’s memorable guitar solo (I’m intentionally not spoiling any of the songs) blasting during a climactic vehicular parking garage battle, Baby Driver takes its concept and finds new and impressive ways to wow.
Luckily for Edgar Wright (this is even mentioned in the movie), there are a lot of songs using “Baby”. Naturally, it gives the filmmaker great pull to use a wide variety of songs and genres to get inside the character’s head space. There are also songs about Debora, the stunning beautiful waitress he falls for played by Lily James; the scenes where the two bond are just as creative and stylish as any moment of chaos. Lily also turns in a fantastic performance, as her smile and seductively wide-eyed expressions, along with her equally passionate fascination for music, make the couple easy to cheer on.
The only thing standing in the way between their happiness is a debt still owed to Kevin Spacey’s mob boss Doc, and even when it’s fully paid off it is unlikely that the crime kingpin is willingly going to let his lucky charm getaway driver ride off into the sunset with the love of his life. That isn’t going to stop Baby from seizing the moment and trying his damnedest to escape the life of crime that he and audiences both know he isn’t meant for. Baby is a good person caught up in a dangerous situation, which makes his actions easy to digest, especially as he goes out of his way to protect the innocent civilians caught in the crossfires of these heists, along with lovingly caring for his deaf foster father. Forget Beauty and the Beast, Baby and Debora are the best on-screen couple of 2017.
Obviously, disappearing from a life of crime isn’t going to be easy considering that Doc has a plethora of criminal associates, ranging from Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, and Eiza González at his disposal. Furthermore, all of the actors have notable memorable scenes with Baby, most of them being humorous as they are completely taken aback that someone who rarely speaks and just sits around listening to music can be so on the ball. Jamie Foxx, in particular, is a standout, playing a more intelligent and crazier version of his Horrible Bosses character, while Jon Hamm is also menacing and not going to let Baby ruin an upcoming job. Edgar Wright once again does a great job getting the most out of his talents, but many people are going to be surprised at just how much comedy is also featured during camaraderie filled dialogue.
Baby Driver only begins to slightly lose its way during the last 15 minutes or so, as if the preceding 100 minutes were so offbeat and unpredictable that Edgar Wright had written himself so far into a corner that no ending would fully satisfy or feel appropriately fitting. It’s not necessarily a happy Hollywood ending, but it also disappointingly falls into formulaic territory which is the polar opposite of the rest of the experience. One character also has some really out of place actions in the grand finale that I’m not sure really works.
Putting those minor gripes aside, Baby Driver represents the kind of originality and creativity that Hollywood is desperately lacking at the moment. Edgar Wright may draw influence from Quentin Tarantino here, but this is 100% his own idea. Anyone else would probably fail at adapting a concept this complex, where Wright uses it to show why he’s one of the best working modern filmmakers. Even during the brief moments where it doesn’t come together, it’s impossible not to admire the ambition on display; every scene leaves an impression and simply is stylishly cool. Baby Driver is the killer movie for your killer track.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★