Contemporary Review / Review

Baby Driver

by David Friedfertig

Baby(3)

There was a moment early on in Baby Driver that slightly changed my viewing experience for the rest of the movie. Without giving anything away, I was reminded of whose film I’m actually watching. Baby Driver isn’t just any regular fast paced action/comedy; it’s an Edgar Wright film. Easily the best comedy director working today, Wright is known for cramming as much into a single frame as possible, providing plenty of visual flair for those who pay attention to what’s on screen. He uses every filmmaking tool at his disposal to tell as many jokes as he can in the best way possible. While it seemed as if the “Wrightisms” were toned down a bit for Baby Driver, the film still managed to be hilarious and visually pleasing from start to finish.

The movie follows young getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort), trying to get out of the crime world after falling in love with Deborah (Lily James), a waitress at a local diner. Baby is obsessed with music. So much so that he plans heists around specific songs and constantly has earbuds in his ears listening to a track on one of his many iPods. This translates into every action in the movie syncing up with the songs that are playing. Combined with the fact that, most times, the songs chosen relate to what’s happening on screen both narratively and emotionally, the movie essentially turns into a musical on top of already being an action comedy. The music and editing create a fast paced romp that grabs you and never lets go until the credits start rolling.

It feels as if Baby was written for Elgort as he plays the role seamlessly. In the first act, he doesn’t say that many lines and is able to convey his emotions solely through looks, gestures, and postures. When situations get heated, he speaks up and commands the scene in a meaningful way. Elgort’s performance is easily the best in the whole movie.

All the other actors play their characters well enough. Lily James, Jon Hamm, and Kevin Spacey all play characters that aren’t huge departures from what they normally do. James is the charming girl that whisks Baby away from his crime-filled life, Hamm plays the handsome and suave gangster with a bit of a temper, and Spacey plays the know-it-all crime boss who cracks a joke every now and then. All of these performances are good but nothing to write home about. They were effective in delivering laughs and felt believable enough in the story. Jamie Foxx’s character is definitely the wildest of the movie. While being somewhat similar in vein to other characters he played in the past, he still managed to be interesting and funny here. All of the actors certainly had chemistry with each other, making their conversations and relationships even more real.

Baby(1)

In terms of the storytelling, the pacing and structure are incredibly well executed. The film moves at a breakneck pace for the first half and slows down a little ways into the second act. Even though this shift appears to be drastic, the film never becomes boring when cars aren’t screeching on Atlanta’s streets. That’s in large part due to the soundtrack and characters. The music always playing in the background at least made me engaged in the scene, while the characters and writing pulled me in even more. While the story follows familiar narrative beats, it never felt predictable. These moments were almost in the vain of being recognizable only because the audience is aware that they need to happen in order for there to be a story.

Wright’s direction is also impeccable throughout. Plenty of one-shot scenes and tight camera work during the car chases always provide a new way to watch the movie. All the action felt real too. Instead of constantly cutting close-ups together to give the illusion that the actors know what they’re doing, Wright pulls the camera back and shows the audience how good of a driver Baby is.

Despite all the overwhelming amount of positives about Baby Driver, there is still one negative I had with the movie. Deborah’s character felt a bit one note as she seemingly gave up her entire life for Baby, no questions asked. This slightly took me out of the movie as it felt unrealistic that this would happen. If a little more time was given to flesh out Deborah’s character more, I believe it would have gone a long way to make the relationship between her and Baby more believable.

Baby Driver is a no-brainer for fans of Edgar Wright and film nerds in general. While Wright isn’t quite at the level of visual tricks and techniques that his other movies are at, there’s still plenty more than most other movies that come out have. The editing is quick, the action is visceral, the writing is clever, and the direction is slick. At the end of the day, the movie is incredibly funny. Even its small shortcomings can’t hold this movie back from being great. See Baby Driver, as well as Wright’s others, as soon as possible.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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