Baby Driver is a fairly rare thing these days – a summer action flick that isn’t a sequel, spin-off or prequel. Edgar Wright’s car-crime-caper is a box office and critical darling at the moment. The buzz and acclaim that it seems to be getting remind me a little bit of the effect John Wick had when it was released. A film that you see on the ‘coming soon’ list and kind of skim over, and then next thing you know you start hearing the buzz. When I saw John Wick it became immediately clear why. Did Baby Driver also live up to the hype?
Well, it certainly gets off to a flying start. We jump right into the middle of a bank heist, with criminals Buddy (John Hamm), Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) and Griff (Jon Bernthal) being driven by our protagonist Baby, played by Ansel Elgort in a star turning role. We immediately learn a bit about Baby, and definitely learn about his special skills behind the wheel. From there, things only slow down a little and we move from chase scene to chase scene.
The crux of the story revolves around Baby’s debt to the ring leader (Kevin Spacey) of the gang, and how he’s driving jobs for him to pay this debt off. However, after a job with a slightly crazier criminal, Bats, (Jamie Foxx, bringing his trademark brand of lovable crazy) things start to get a little dicier and more dangerous. Not to mention the addition of complicating factors in the form of Baby’s first romance, the lovely Deborah (Lily James, of Downton Abbey). This cast of fantastic actors adds a ton of quality and depth to a fairly straightforward and at times cliched plotting.
Edgar Wright is of comedy background, with such popular films as Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and Ant-Man to his name. You can tell, as there is a slightly silly feel to the film. However, I have to say that there aren’t really any true laughs to be had. One of my faults of the film is that sometimes the tone seemed a bit silly, but I didn’t find myself laughing. Maybe a chuckle here and there. That being said, it was well written and the characters managed to be deep and engaging despite the picture being fairly action heavy and quickly paced. We manage to care about certain characters pretty easily. One of the film’s strengths is messing with our feelings a bit in terms of who we think are the ‘decent’ bad guys, and which are just really bad.
There are two main relationships at the heart of the movie. The first being between Baby and his foster father, and the second between him and his love interest Deborah. Both relationships are portrayed effectively, and although he and Deborah’s falling is pretty hasty, it holds up well enough to drive the film. Of course, Baby’s other love, and what makes him unique, is the music. Due to a hearing problem he has, he listens to music basically at all times. This music is also audible to the viewer of course, meaning the film is essentially just one big, bad-ass soundtrack. It’s a pretty neat little take, and it adds a little extra boost of adrenaline and uniqueness to the movie.
Speaking of adrenaline, the action scenes in Baby Driver are of course where the film really butters it’s bread. The driving scenes are pretty remarkable, and look extremely real. There’s not really any CGI here, and if there is it can’t be spotted. This is despite some pretty wild stunts. Even the action outside the vehicles is pretty exhilarating too, particularly one on-foot chase scene that manages to bring the heat as well as the four-wheeled versions. While there’s not really anything NEW on offer here, these are definitely some of the best chase scenes that have been on show in a while.
While the film is genuinely really good, and exhilarating throughout, I would say it doesn’t quite reach ‘spectacular’ for me. It just doesn’t quite do anything new enough, and while the musical element seems to be considered by many as revolutionary, for me it is just a great added element to a really good movie. Of course, there’s also not much bad to say about the film, and when my only criticism really is that it wasn’t ‘truly spectacular’ I’d say it’s doing pretty well. I also love a fresh, original film that isn’t a sequel pulling out the stops, so much love to Edgar Wright for that, and here’s to hoping that Ansel Elgort’s career takes off. That being said, based on a particular scene in the beginning, where one character played by a fairly well known actor sort of just fades out of the film, I have a feeling a sequel might be being set up. Just a hunch.
Baby Driver is a great summer movie, that I highly recommend seeing in all its glory on the big, big screen with the sound up loud.
Movie Melt Score: 8/10