Frenetic director Edgar Wright returns with Baby Driver, a star-studded heist movie about a music-loving getaway driver and his desire to leave crime behind him. How can you lose? Darren, Lee and Lawrence review. Sometimes, reviews are superfluous. The movies in them are too big, too anticipated for a critic’s voice to matter, especially if the critics in question are all singing off the same hymn sheet. There’s only so many ways to say how good something is, and unlike with negative criticism, there isn’t anything for readers to sink their teeth into zinger-wise. Constant good reviews are the anathema to a critic’s life in many ways. Why read what everyone already knows?
Baby is a young man forced to become the driver for a particular crew of bank robbers in Atlanta. With a penchant for music, fast cars and a need to take care of his ailing stepfather, he’s been on the wrong side of the tracks for too long in his life. With the promise of just one more job, he hopes to take his life back.
Edgar Wright is easily one of the great directors of this generation.
No one on the scene at the moment is better at details and minutia, and what any other director would let slide, Wright revels in it. Here, his screenwriting skills craft an engaging story that hits all the right notes with regards to pacing, characters and themes – everything’s sharp and on-beat.
With a soundtrack that isn’t as distracting as say, Guardians of the Galaxy, but captures the right feel, scene-to-scene, moment-to-moment with a genuine appreciation and knowledge of each and every genre. It’s the kind of thing fans of Wright have come to expect. Scott Pilgrim proved he had the musical chops and knowledge and his other works such as Hot Fuzz showed he knew how to put in all the quiet and subtle details that you might miss the first time around.
For me, the opening scene with Baby dancing down the street, words of the song graffitied or hidden in this single sustained camera shot, was the one to really reel me in. The direction here is the strongest part of the film.
Sound then plays such a major part of it, with easily 90% of the film scored with different genres or musical styles, never allowing a quiet moment to really develop. On the rare times there is no music, a low pitched hum can be heard constantly, mimicking the tinnitus that Baby suffers from. Sound and movement, or more accurately vibration, are a constant. And while this could easily be annoying or even distracting, it somehow works very well highlighting and even softening key moments in the film.
If I had to complain I’d say the third act suffers a little from having too much going on. Plenty of heel turns and subversions of expectations, and they are done well with some nice foreshadowing, but it can be a little messy towards the end.
That and the lack of any real development in the relationship between Baby and his Stepfather is a bit of a missed opportunity in my book. The movie focuses on the love story Between Baby and Debora, and considering the ending, it’s understandable, but I wanted a little bit more time with the stepfather who is the only person that Baby is seemingly sticking around for. The dynamic between them is good, but there is still so much that can be done with a music-obsessed young adult and a wheelchair bound deaf geriatric.
In conclusion, it’s a movie that has everything going right for it: great soundtrack with some real toetapping moments (Brighton Rock by Queen being a highlight), good story with some well-developed characters and acting, plus some of the better driving action you’ll see this side of Death Proof.
But let’s be honest here, you’ve already seen it, enjoyed it and bought the soundtrack.
Simple concept: how do you give your movie a pulse? Give it a beat. How do you make it fast? Give it some rock. How do you take it slow? Give it some soul. Cool? Jazz. Tension? Funk. Build the mood-board from the ground-up, wrap a story around it and film something to fit and you have a gig in movie form, just cut on the bar.
Baby Driver might seem at first like it’s going to be shaking the knowing car-chase pastiche stick, or even the too-smart-for-its-own-fun stick, too hard to allow the audience to take the work on show seriously but, mercifully, Bernthal’s exposition thug slips quietly into the background and leaves us, caught up, in perhaps the most entertaining and well-crafted action movie this side of John Wick.
Here, director Edgar Wright trims the hyperactivity from previous visual-narrative adventures to give us his most refined to date, a story that still has its share of neat transitions and kinetic storyboarding, but also marries all the effort with a lead character and story that calls for it rather than makes a joke out of it.
Cars take up most of the action, but the real emphasis is on kinesis – of any kind. Characters dance, twirl, squeeze-in, parkour, speak in sign language; anything that keeps the rhythm on screen with the rhythm off-screen. Dialogue is punchy and one-liner driven, and the soundtrack forms a skeletal framework that evolves music video form to music movie form without ever having to say it out loud.
While the romance maybe sticks too closely to the rule book, it does fit the overall rigid simplicity of the moral standpoint: be good, even when doing bad, and the world should be fair. It’s the kind of daydream hopefulness that cements a classic that already has everything else going for it, though perhaps we shouldn’t clap too hard for borrowing so many sentiments.