Baby Driver is the latest film from Edgar Wright, whose films, such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, are often hailed as modern classics for their innovative blending of genres and techniques.
Boasting a love story by way of a heist flick crossed with a chase movie, Baby Driver is now showing in Philippine cinemas, and here’s our take!
The Wright Way of Filmmaking
Following his departing the production of Ant-Man due to “creative differences”, Wright’s fans have been waiting to see what the man who made Simon Pegg (Star Trek, TV’s Spaced) an international geek icon was going to do next.
Baby Driver combines many of the elements that have made Wright’s works so memorable, including an appealing protagonist (played by The Fault in Our Stars’ Ansel Elgort), slick editing, and a soundtrack to die for. But it isn’t all smooth sailing…
It’s Style Over Substance
Baby Driver falters in finding the heart of its story, which isn’t really all that original to begin with, simply dusting off the old chestnut of the “Crook With a Heart of Gold Who Has to Pull One Last Job so He Can Retire and Be with the One He Loves™”, with car chases and killer tunes thrown in for good measure. Seeing as Wright has previously excelled at complementing the fantastic with genuine emotion, this comes as something of a disappointment.
Even the film’s attempt to give Baby pathos in the form of a tragic backstory feels tacked on, as if the writers couldn’t think of any other way to make us care about him or his character. Despite the top-flight action, Baby Driver, much like 2007’s Shoot Em Up, ends up feeling like a joke that goes on for way too long – great for the trailers, but somewhat of a chore to sit through.
The Car Chases are Spectacular
The film’s central conceit is that while Baby may be socially awkward, he is the Best. Damn. Driver. Ever. Period. This makes him the perfect getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey, House of Cards), a criminal mastermind who uses his position as a medical practitioner to get confidential information that he uses to plan heists. As a matter of course, Doc never uses the same crew twice, with the exception of Baby, whom he considers to be a good luck charm.
It isn’t long into the film that we see why: The vehicular stunt work is impressive, with the majority of stunts performed for real, as opposed to being mostly rendered on a computer. It comes then, as no surprise that Wright was so confident in Baby Driver, he put the first six minutes online so people could see for themselves what the fuss was about.
Baby’s Baby is…Just OK.
Lily James (Cinderella) plays Debora, who is everything Baby would give anything to run away with. And it’s not hard to see why, as Wright stages their meet cute and first date in a manner that would fit in any number of rom coms. Unfortunately, Wright makes the common rom com mistake of assuming we’ll care about the couple based on a handful of cheesy moments. Youthful enthusiasm notwithstanding, it’s hard to believe that either of them would throw their lives so easily away for the other, especially with the way things turn out towards the final act.
The Soundtrack is Superb
Whatever criticisms one can level at Baby Driver’s story, Wright’s followers can rest assured that the soundtrack is without reproach. Where most films are content to have music run in the background or underscore moments, Wright’s never been one to shy from having his playlist perform narrative duties. In Baby Driver, Wright hits a new high pairing songs with visuals, as his title character’s chronic tinnitus creates the perfect excuse to put tracks like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” and Queen’s “Brighton Rock” up front and center, making for a film that can make a halfway decent claim towards being an action movie and a musical.
The Late Stage Violence Comes Out of Nowhere
This one comes out of left field, as the graphic blood and guts don’t show up until the last half hour of the film, set off – somewhat appropriately – by Foxx’s Bats. This isn’t to say that the viscera is poorly handled, mind you, just that, as with Hot Fuzz, the violence prior to the final third had been more implied than anything else.
Of course, it can probably be argued that Wright intended to shock us in much the same way that Baby is shocked by the acts that he (and others) can commit in pursuit of their goals, but that may be reading too much into things. At any rate, there’s no excusing the sudden shifts in character that practically half the cast takes when things start getting hairy.
The Bad Guys are Gleefully Insane
When a bank robbery crew consists of familiar faces like Spacey, Jon Bernthal (Daredevil, The Punisher), and Jon Hamm (Black Mirror), one could be forgiven for thinking they’re watching some sort of bizarre Netflix reunion.
Spacey plays Doc as someone who fancies himself the smartest man in the room, with a touch of barely concealed rage as he handles the rotating characters who make up his crews. While Bernthal’s appearance initially pegs him as the film’s resident loose cannon, that honor actually goes to Jamie Foxx (Ray) as Bats, a nutcase with a mean streak a mile wide. It is Bats’ mistrust of the eccentric Baby that sets off the film’s final act, but as off-kilter as he is, the prize for Baby Driver’s top baddie doesn’t go to Foxx…
Jon Hamm is a Madman
As Buddy, Jon Hamm gets to let loose, portraying the sort of all-out sleazebag that his leading man looks have probably precluded him from playing in the past. Whether he’s shamelessly making out with Darling (Eiza González, of TV’s From Dusk Till Dawn) or murdering people left and right in grief-stricken anger, Hamm makes the most of every second he is onscreen, and it is ridiculously entertaining.
Now, if enough people see how well Hamm plays unhinged here, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he turned up in more villainous roles, because seriously, he definitely delivers the best performance in the film that isn’t played on an iPod.
What did you think of the movie? Tell us your thoughts below!