- Baby Driver (2017)
Let’s skip what everyone has already told you: you don’t have to reinvent Drive with songs, or imagine what Dirty Dancing would be if Jennifer Grey decided to go rogue and help out with bank robberies (not that it isn’t an awesome film pitch). The story seems similar: a getaway driver wants to change his life when he meets the girl of his dreams, and his boss forces him into new robberies, threatening he’ll take away everything said driver loves. Think you know it? Wait a minute…
Our Baby relies on the soundtrack for every mood, weather change, and location, all placed on distinctive iPods (is this trend still going, or is it a rather vintage element now?!) that even have sparkling diamond cases to fit what’s on the soundtrack – and it’s because the accident in his childhood has left him with a noise in his ears and a loss in his heart that he tries to mute with music. It’s no surprise that the film has been lauded as a crossover between the popular action films it resembles and musicals – but Edgar Wright takes all the expectations, makes them flip over a couple of times, and delivers a fun flick that is one of the most entertaining and original movies you’ll see this year, and possibly in a while.
Although the film does rely on music very strongly, saying it’s a musical wouldn’t be fully accurate. Baby Driver balances on the verge of three genres, but does it skilfully and tastefully: Edgar Wright pictures the world through a hit collection on the soundtrack, topping it up with the cutting-edge action sequences. It’s a Molotov cocktail of an action film mixed with comedy played in time, and a subtle touch of a musical – once it unfolds, it never hits the brakes.
The subtle choreographed sequences – from the very beginning, when Baby makes a peanut butter sandwich with such smooth moves that I only wish I could reprise every time I hit the kitchen floor, to the little surprises throughout the film – find the right tone to fit into the film seamlessly. Even a gentle nod at the older musicals, present in transitions from a vintage shot of our main characters to the modern frame full of colour, is a playful addition that supports the mood of the film. And the action scenes are a sheer delight: the film kicks off with an exciting car chase, and consecutively refuels it with more drifting and speeding along the way. And boy, if Simon and Garfunkel universe does happen, and they’ll consider more action movies, The Rock will be better off here than in Fast and Furious.
In Ansel Elgort’s hands, a sensitive music producer with a daytime getaway driver job, with all his quirks, becomes the boy next door with a double life and a heart on his sleeve. We meet him as a cool youngster who doesn’t talk much but does what his boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) needs him to do. However, behind the scenes, he cares for deaf Joseph and samples the recordings of the gang members into his own mixtapes. There’s so much to unpack for his character, and Elgort needs to keep the cool façade during the first forty minutes of the film or so, but he manages to do it flawlessly. He feels the comedy material phenomenally, too – and the development of the protagonist and the changes in his life feel really moving. Nobody puts Baby in the corner, at the end of the day.
But it’s Lily James who gets a tough role to play. The script gives her almost stereotypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl; we see her through Baby’s eyes, and even when they spend time together we don’t really get to understand her own life and motivations. She puts her own spin on it towards the finale, however, when the circumstances force her to act, and she’s not waiting to be saved – she takes a crowbar, and her lover’s life, in her own hands.
What about the rest of the cast? Spacey is hilarious as Doc, throwing one-liners at the other gangsters without batting an eyelid. Jamie Foxx grows important towards the end of the film, but only for the best. He got the uproarious part hands down, and you can clearly see he’s having a lot of fun with his character. Eiza Gonzales also needs to be recognised for her supporting role: her cool heroine pops bubble gum in one scene with a mocking look at the people around and fires off a machine gun when she’s in the middle of the chase. It gives Jon Hamm a solid background to play off, and there’s chemistry between them that throws us ropes leading to the grand finale
Although the final twists and turns in the story keep you at the edge of your seat, a couple of scenes feel a little deus ex machina, and the final scenes feel like a disruption to the pacing with the fast-forward montage. These, however, are really minor flaws – and they hardly overshadow the fantastic performances from the cast and a well-thought film structure based on Wright’s tracks of choice.
Baby Driver opens in the UK on the 28th of June.