Baby Driver (2017) – Film Review
Baby Driver is the latest film written and directed by Edgar Wright who also performed similar duties on Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and The World’s End.
It’s also a welcome throw-back to classic action-orientated heist films from decades ago just when you thought that car stunts had gone out of fashion once film makers opted to go with ever-improving CGI.
It’s all-too-easy for modern action films to go for weightless-looking unrealistic computer graphics illustrating fantastical sequences – Transformers and Fast and Furious 8 are just two of the more extreme examples from this year alone.
It’s been such a long time since we had a decent car chase – I’m thinking back to the likes of Ronin and the Bourne Identity before we get to a decent car chase, and we have to go back to Bullitt (1968), The French Connection (1971), The Driver (1978), and The Blues Brothers (1980) before we return to the classic era of car chases pre-CGI.
And, yes, James Bond has always had car-based action but it rarely dominates a James Bond movie aside from the occasional legendary car stunt – but that’s a topic for another day.
Back to Baby Driver, though, and you can see in this relatively low-budget outing that Wright’s stylised writing shines through in a film that seems to start like La La Land but also touches on some classic 90s genre films such as Reservoir Dogs, Heat, and Go.
As with many modern films (Guardians of the Galaxy being a prime example), the soundtrack is integral to the enjoyment of this film.
The music selection is a fine accompaniment to the film even if it might not be to everyone’s taste, with entire sequences blocked out to match the songs used starting with a sequence which riffs on La La Land with some amusing but apt choreography.
Music at the heart of Baby Driver but there’s excitement and laughs too
Baby Driver just about has the excuse that our likeable titular getaway driver has a plot-specific reason for listening to the music, though, so we can pick out the songs we recognise and like, and go with the ones that we don’t know or don’t like if car rock isn’t our thing.
Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars) is a youthful but superbly talented getaway driver who constantly listens on headphones to music from a selection of iPods to drown out the sound of tinnitus which he developed after a tragic childhood accident.
It also goes some way towards explaining his otherwise taciturn demeanour as he focused his talents from a young age although we do see he’s a decent chap throughout the film despite the line of work he finds himself in.
He’s roped into one last job after falling in love with a young waitress, Debora (Lily James, Cinderella) and deciding to give it all up to be with her.
Elgort character goes by a code-name, Baby, given to him by criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) who assembles a different crew for each armed robbery but keeps using Baby as getaway driver as a ‘good luck charm’.
The crew may change but some of the characters inject dramatic tension to the crime action with Jamie Foxx (Bats) as a paranoid loose-cannon while Mad Men’s John Hamm (Buddy) is a loved-up party-animal.
Baby’s conscience is pricked by some of the unsavoury tactics employed by the criminals he is driving for on one of their jobs, and Debora is the catalyst that makes him decide to jack it all in.
Of course, it’s all going to go badly wrong during that last heist and the stakes go sky high for Baby and Debora as the film races to a breathless climax.
Baby Driver is hardly a gritty crime thriller so a slightly overlong final act can be forgiven after some stylish action and funny moments on the way, though.
It’s slightly disappointing that more of the film’s running time wasn’t given over to Lily James’ character Debora – she’s the object of Baby’s affection and the reason he wants to give up a life in crime but her character is sadly underdeveloped.
That said, any missteps are easy to forgive – it’s a fun ride all the way with some grown up action and laughs.
Baby Driver (15; strong language, violence; 113 minutes)
Summary: BABY DRIVER is a US action comedy film about a young getaway driver who is coerced into a life of crime.
Rating: ***** (A fun action joyride of a film)
Check out Edgar Wright’s music video that may well have inspired Baby Driver – with a main role for Mighty Boosh man Noel Fielding, and his partner-in-Boosh Julian Barratt – plus Nick Frost and Michael Smiley from Spaced.