Film review by Jason Day of the movie Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a getaway driver with a heart. Co-starring Lily James and Kevin Spacey.
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Despite leading a life of crime as a highly skilled getaway driver for bank robbery maestro Doc (Kevin Spacey), tinnitus-afflicted Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a good boy at heart, who dotes on his disabled foster father (C.J. Jones) and is head over heels with dreamy waitress Debora (Lily James). He finds life gets more difficult when, crippled by pangs of guilt, he scuppers a heist, much to Doc’s chagrin.
Review, by Jason Day
It shows a director’s confidence when he employs an extended tracking shot near the start of a film.
Orson Welles, a man highly regarded for his technical wizardry behind the camera, staged the most famous and still impressive to open his grimy, Mexico/US border crime thriller Touch of Evil (1959), his camera following a car that has just had a bomb planted in it until said explosive detonates.
Edgar Wright, progenitor of the morbidly delightful ‘zomromcom’ Shaun of the Dead (2004), has had a wobbly career since then. Hot Fuzz (2007) hit the right wry and silly mark but The World’s End (2013) saw a dip in box office.
Here, he seems to have found his technical and stylistic feet at least in a loud, busy, sometimes chaotic but always fleet of foot crime caper.
That opening credits tracking shot, following Baby through the city as he buys morning coffee and dances and lip syncs to his favourite tracks, is impressively staged, deserving of a standing ovation on its own.
The sound quality is nailed down to the final, tiny detail: when Baby scopes out a potential Post Office hit, the only sound heard is a faint buzzing. Either its the tinnitus that plagues him or the building’s air-con, but it is also remarkably fitting.
On the music, every crime thriller post-Pulp Fiction (1993) has cobbled together a cool playlist of retro, campy songs to help set an off-beat, slick or dangerous tone. Baby Driver is no different, but goes into acoustic overload.
What incidental music composer Steven Price penned is not to be heard, drowned out as it is by ancient tunes blaring out, at the colossal, fatiguing rate of one per scene.
This adds to the frenetic, petrol-fumed feel of the piece (Baby careers round a corner, or slams his foot down on the accelerator, accompanied by a new song) but also leads the audience to develop the tinnitus that our hero lives with. There is too much going on at times; Wright lets his directorial flourishes go into top gear for the action sequences but, when he finally eases up on the gas, the quieter moments noticeably pall.
It doesn’t help that the characters are thin as gossamer and are unrealistic. With a cast as hot as this, you would expect the film’s reach to match its grasp. Instead, they have been sidelined in the passenger seat, the window rolled down and thrown out like a cigarette butt.
Spacey’s crime lord is a key example. As coolly expressionless as an iceberg, he throws Baby to the dogs when the boy double-crosses him, but then relents in a heart beat because he was “young and once in love.” Foxx as the bad-ass seems to snarl and grunt to no discernibly frightening effect. James’ love interest flutters and twitters around her Baby but, again, why? Where are we going?
I liked Baby as a character himself as he is interesting, engaging and romantic with some moral fibre to him (sweetly putting his invalid step father on the steps of a care home when he needs to take flight); Wright put some proper time into fleshing him out. Everyone else is mere bullet or car chase fodder.
Overall, this is a cute film with some smart dialogue but, given the light-hearted style and kooky music, there are very few laughs.
Cast & credits
Director: Edgar Wright. 113mins. Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions/Double Negative/TriStar Pictures/Media Rights Capital. (15)
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park,
Writer: Edgar Wright.
Camera: Bill Pope.
Music: Steven Price.
Sets: Marcus Rowland.
Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, John Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal, Lanny Joon, C.J. Jones.