Review: Baby Driver

Baby Driver poster

It has been said many times before, but it bears repeating – there aren’t near enough original films being released these days. This problem is most prevalent among the big studios, which would prefer to produce sequels and remakes over a bespoke screenplay. What the industry needs is a reminder that movies can still be innovative, an atypical approach to the medium – a picture like Baby Driver.

When it comes to clean getaways, nobody is better than Baby (Ansel Elgort). For years, the bright young lad has been the go-to getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey), the most-notorious criminal mastermind in Atlanta. While Baby enjoys the thrill of a police pursuit, he is not a criminal by choice, as he only does the job to repay a large debt owed to Doc. What little payment he does receive is spent looking after his foster father, Joseph (C.J. Jones).

All of Atlanta’s criminals have a defining quirk, with Baby’s being his need to listen to music. Using one of his many iPods, Baby is able to drown out the ringing in his ears – gained as a result of a traffic collision years earlier – and perform tasks to the tune of whichever song is playing. He shares this love of music with both Joseph and newfound love-interest Debora (Lily James) who he plans on running away with. And with Doc promising “one last job”, that opportunity may come sooner than anticipated.

Baby Driver - James, Elgort
Lily James (left) with Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Baby Driver is blessed with being both original and unconventional, thanks partly to its editing. Whereas most movies would choreograph action sequences before selecting the appropriate melody to match, Baby Driver’s soundtrack is what crafts the action, with the movements of the characters being harmonious with the music. Film scholars often warn against such practices, but after seeing how meticulously edited this movie is, they may want to reconsider this long-held view.

It helps that Baby Driver is directed by Edgar Wright, a man who time-and-again has demonstrated how masterful he is at his craft. A number of Wright’s trademark flourishes are present in the film, including snap-zooms, quick transitions and the use of bright colours. All three elements are welcome deviations from the blockbuster norm, making it unique among its contemporaries. Additionally, there’s a fantastic supporting cast which includes the likes of Jamie Foxx, Lanny Joon, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, and Flea – yes, the bassist from Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

There are problems with Baby Driver, one of which is the surprisingly underwhelming car chases. They are somewhat enjoyable and, like the rest of the picture, superbly edited, but not as tense or exciting as they could be. Another downside is the dearth of laugh-out-loud humour that Wright’s other works, such as the Cornetto trilogy, are celebrated for – not that it needs to be hilarious, but it could use another gag or two. Finally, the film is very sluggish to begin with, spending a little too much time developing its protagonist, but does become more engaging as it progresses.

Vibrant, energetic and creative, the wholly original Baby Driver is a rarity in this age, providing a much-needed relief from the conformity of Hollywood. The choreography of the action scenes is scrupulous, timed perfectly to an excellent soundtrack and possessing that well-renowned Edgar Wright flair.

4 stars

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