"You can't be in crime without being a little criminal"
A talented young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort), who uses music to help drown out his tinnitus, falls in love with a waitress (Lily James). The pair dream of hitting the road together with nothing but music and the highway, but he finds himself being drawn back into the life of crime by his former boss (Kevin Spacey) and one final job.
Baby Driver, the latest film from writer/director Edgar Wright (known for his amazing stylised genre films), is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s an exercise in cool, oozing with bold and brash visuals cut impeccable to a thumping soundtrack. It's a film that puts the pedal to the floor from the first second and doesn’t give up till the credits roll.
While the story that drives the film isn’t anything ground breaking, it’s the way in which Wright presents his narrative that makes it such a fun ride. The easiest way to explain it would be by saying Wright has taken what Tarantino has masterfully done for years, use pre-existing music to heighten and enhance his films, and has cranked it up to 11. Baby Driver by no means reinvents the crime or car chase film but it does reinvent the musical. Wright has incredibly used specifically chosen songs to stage his set pieces, utilising the sounds of car tires screeching, guns being fired and vehicles smashing into each other perfectly timed with the soundtrack, essentially creating an orchestra of action. The use of music and sound design is revolutionary and will help change what audiences perceive as a musical. It’s pure cinema and style and it’s insanely fun to watch.
Style can’t be everything with a film (Nicolas Winding Refn has shown us that…), you need to have interesting characters and performances to help ground the action and hook the audience. Ansel Elgort’s Baby is a great addition to the pantheon of stoic drivers, joining the ranks of Ryan O’Neal and Barry Newman, however it’s in his more animated moments, the rare times when Baby lets his guard down, that Elgort truly shines. It’s these little moments of levity that let you truly connect with the young man and embrace him as a character and feel for his story and situation. Kevin Spacey seems to be having the time of his life as the charismatic crime boss Doc, delivering a performance that is more jovial than you’d expect for this type of character but somehow it works, making him all the more menacing. The rogue’s gallery of supporting villains that populate the film and Baby’s car deliver top notch performances across the board with each bringing their own brand of crazy to the table. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm stand out as the main robbers, with their respective outspoken and inward styles of crazy bouncing back and forth off each other creating a tension that slowly builds and builds, making the action all the more thrilling.
The simplicity of the narrative that propels Baby Driver isn’t a bad thing, it’s necessary. Looking back at the classic car chase films that helped inspire this film it’s clear that story is never that important with the genre. An overly convoluted plot gets in the way of the action and the tension and Wright knows this. The story is simple and straightforward and something we’ve all seen before, however we’ve never seen Wright’s version of it and this is where the fun starts. By injecting his quirky brand of humour periodically he reminds us that we’re supposed to be having fun with the film, revelling in the stunts and action and the scariness of his characters, all the while tapping our feet to the incredible soundtrack.
Baby Driver will probably not be the best film you see this year but it will without a doubt be the most fun you have in the cinema this year. It’s original, unique and masterfully constructed with Wright and his crew creating something special, using music and sound to enhance their action and thrill audiences with a film that is unlike anything they've seen before. To quote Kevin Spacey's Doc they've given us something bold and brazen as f**k to talk about over our morning lattes.
9 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.