Just so you know, when a film is marketed as being La La Land meets Grand Theft Auto, you can be damn sure that I’m going to be one of the first in line to see it. The hype for Edgar Wright’s latest big screen adventure has been growing for the past few months, and with an interesting premise and exciting cast list to boot, I was looking forward to seeing what the curiously named Baby Driver had to offer.
The films tells the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young and talented getaway driver who works jobs begrudgingly for kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) in recompense for stealing his car as a child. As a result of a tragic accident in his youth, Baby copes with permanent tinnitus by listening to music 24/7 on one of his many iPods, the narrative unfolds as a quirky and captivating mixture of imaginative music based sequences and thrilling car chases, with the two elements combining frequently.
I’ve seen many critics hailing Baby Driver as the best film of the year, and whilst there is no denying that it is a whole bucket load of comedic, musical and action fun, I don’t think I could go so far as to call it a modern masterpiece. Being a fan of all kinds of music, the first third of the of the picture that focuses on Baby’s love of music and the way in which the film shows characters interacting with the songs being played is a joy to watch. The device of having the picture’s soundtrack be a tangible element of the in-film universe is a brilliant one, and Edgar Wright’s use of music here rivals any of the best Tarantino works or more recent Guardians Of The Galaxy adventures.
I’m more than prepared to accept that this is purely a case of personal preference, but where the film slightly loses its edge of excellence for me is on the car chase, heist based side of things. Though the addition of clever musical cues certainly enhances enjoyment, I simply don’t find cars speeding in and out of streets that exciting. What’s so good about Baby Driver, however, is that there is still lots to be satisfied by even if, like myself, you don’t find motor based actions sequences that appealing. There is an effortless cool about the film that makes you feel like you are watching something really special. In terms of the minutia of the plot, one could say that there is a slight case of style over substance, with certain character motivations and narrative decisions feeling a little contrived, but when you’re having so much fun in the process, these minor flaws can be forgiven in lieu of the bigger picture. Ultimately it’s just great to see an original property being given such limelight, and in the height of the summer blockbuster season no less.
As the titular Baby, Ansel Elgort makes an impressive departure from the young adult universe that is he is currently most associated with. The quirky character requires a lot of intensity with few lines of dialogue, and Elgort’s clean cut look paired with the high octane lifestyle Baby leads makes for a fun dynamic. Lily James plays love interest Debora, and together the pair exude a sweet, charming chemistry that contrasts directly with the criminal nature of Baby’s day job.
The cast is filled out by a rotating crew of bank robbers played by the likes of Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Flea, Eiza Gonzalez, Lanny Joon and Jamie Foxx. On the whole, these performances all add some great texture and fun to the proceedings, though I must say that Jamie Foxx as the borderline unbearable Bats plays everything a little too ‘broad villain’ for my taste. He pulls focus in a negative way and through the character’s unpredictably dangerous nature, works to undermine the characterisation of Kevin Spacey’s Doc as a slick kingpin who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Bats very much feels like a character inserted in to the plot to transparently guide the narrative one way and the next. Foxx clearly looks like he’s having a great time in the role, but I would have preferred something a little more subtle and less comically menacing.
Overall, Baby Driver is an innovative riot from start to finish. The passion, precision and heart of writer/director Edgar Wright is clear to see throughout, with the picture very much feeling like an artist at the top of his game having free reign to delight his fans. Not every single element worked for me, but the genius use of music is something that I was always going to be a fan of. If I’m going to sit down and watch a movie about car chases, then this is certainly top of the list thanks to its quirky sensibility and overwhelming cool factor.