BABY DRIVER Review
The Music number in a non-musical film, or the point when a pop song plays over a portion of film, has the ability to reinforce time period (‘Goodfellas’), or can be used for pure entertainment (‘Guardians of the Galaxy’). In capable hands, it results in classic film moments such as in ‘Reservoir Dogs’, or, in the wrong set of hands, can feel tacked on (ahem, Suicide Squad). However, these scenes usually last for roughly 2 minutes of screen time, and account for the minority of the films run time. What if it was done for the near entirety of the film?
Enter Edgar Wright, who having been inspired by a music video idea over 15 years ago, has presented one of the most original, stylistic and thrilling pieces of cinema in those 15 years, with ‘Baby Driver’. ‘Baby Driver’ follows Baby, the best getaway driver in Atlanta, who hopes to leave his life of crime for the girl of his dreams, Debora. Think Edgar Wright’s version of ‘Drive’. Cue epic car chases and one killer soundtrack.
From scene one, Wright masterfully choregraphs each scene to the music pumped through Baby’s headphones. Whether it be the pulse-pounding, practical chases scenes or characters sitting in a diner, each scene has a flow that is perfectly synced to a soundtrack that is made with care. Wright picks his songs meticulously, not what some executive picked to attract a certain demographic, and it delivers with a soundtrack that can only be described as, ‘cool’.
To match these sharp, snappy action scenes is sharp, snappy dialogue reminiscent of other Wright films and akin to Tarantino’s style of writing. The exchange between Spacey and the members of the gang, as well as Hamm and Gonzalez, are clever and funny with hints of deep stories and characters than what is on the surface. And Jaime Foxx basically steals the film as Bats, the wild card who comes in like a bulldozer, with the style of a pimp. They are all so cool and intriguing. The same can’t be said for the two main leads.
Baby is lovably dorkish and charming as he dances in the car to his music while a bank is robbed in the opening. It’s a humane and natural performance, for a brief moment. Elgort’s performance is divided into three stages; when he is around the gang, around Debora and around his roommate Joseph. When around the gang, Baby is stoic and cold; a dweb attempting to be cool at the cool kids table; which feels like a natural act of the character. Baby’s true form is revealed in his apartment with his deaf roommate Joseph, as he experiments with his recordings of the world around him and dances to blaring music without a care in the world. And then there is Debora.
The crux of the film, excluding the action and music, is Debora and Baby. The audience should care about both of these characters, relate to them in some way, and want them to succeed. Yet, they are stale with a forced connection. Baby acts like this macho tough-guy around Debora, and Debora exists purely to act as a sheep to Baby, with no unique characteristic other than to agree with Baby. She is his mirror, in the worst way. They don’t have a romantic relationship; what they have is the relationship of an owner and puppy dog.
The ending as well is oddly rushed and cliched, for such a smart story. In Wright fashion, the film is enhanced by multiple viewings as audiences pick up on the little Easter eggs and pieces of foreshadowing that make the rest of the film truly enjoyable.
‘Baby Driver’ is a breathtaking piece of style and practical car choreographing, with a cast of intriguing side characters and clever moments of storytelling. It’s a shame then that you’d find more spark in a Spark Plug then the focal relationship (that’s a car pun, for those that missed it).