Now and again you come across a film that is a hell of a lot of fun all the way through. Baby Driver is one of those movies, and although it is not perfect, it manages to keep you engaged through the dramas that it brings. Without toying with the idea and annoying film fans, Edgar Wright has made a light-hearted version of Drive, and I say that lightly of course, because I will try my best to stay away from a comparison piece and keep this as a review.
Like Drive (I’m sorry) you are introduced to a character and you are not aware of his real name. His nickname is Baby, and although that sounds very immature, it grows on you like a glowing ember as the film progresses. It is somewhat fitting that he is called Baby because he looks way too young and soft for the jobs he carries out, but I guess that’s the point. Baby is the perfect driver for heists but he is not doing them willingly. He is doing work for Doc, the organiser of the heists, who claims he owes him a few jobs for one reason or another. This is basically the premise but it is way more enjoyable than it sounds.
Enjoyable because the movie has been constructed in such an upfront and vibrant way that it becomes more of a viewing experience than just “watching a film”. It showcases Baby’s traits immediately in that he has to listen to music at precisely the right time in order to fulfil his ability to pull off the getaway after the heists. The music works as he calculates his getaway to his personal favourite beats, and the way the scenes have been pulled together is so fluid that you do not need to be sold on the film’s theme. The narrative does not try to overcomplicate the characters because the movie does not need extensive backstories to each member of Doc’s team. The key is to keep things moving, and it does that from start to finish. That is not to say the characters are not interesting. Bats, Darling, Doc and Buddy show so much personality to their criminal traits that you are entertained enough to prevent you from questioning their backgrounds. Baby is the integral character and it is what makes him tick that serves the entire plot.
It’s about a girl. I hear groans, but when a movie manages to convince you why it is about a girl then you have a decent plot device. That girl is Deborah, and the chemistry between them both is impressive, and the reason why it works is that Baby makes the effort to speak to her as he is pretty much a mute with everyone else. As an audience member, you understand his new found motive because you are sold on his fascination. I will not go any further because it’s the basis of the rest of the film, but without these two characters working effectively you would just have a story about a very quiet driver who gets into trouble with a few heists, which is supported by decent chase scenes. Adding in “it’s about a girl” adds a whole new dimension to Baby’s personality that you do not see at all in the first act.
The performances are overall good. I cannot recall a moment where I believed an actor used a bit less energy to carry out a scene. Obviously Ansel Elgort as Baby is the standout performance, as he manages to deliver a tentative character who does not reveal too much but at the same time has to give the audience something worth keeping us engaged, with his ballsy attitude and love for music. Kevin Spacey as Doc does what he does best with his straight talking attitude, something similar to what you would get out of House of Cards, and it works because you are convinced of his criminal leadership. Finally, to finish the praise, Lily James as Deborah deserves an applause for being the supporting character to Baby, and putting in a performance that convinces us she is relevant enough in the narrative for the driver to want to change his life. She provides a character that is sweet, funny and clearly absorbs Baby’s attention.
There are certain niggles with the film. The third act does have very long sequences of action that becomes tired near the end, and you are desperately wanting the characters to reach a conclusion. It is not a surprise that the movie becomes less interesting the more it drags car chases. Finally, the ending does over-explain itself. By that I mean they could have easily cut out some segments and leave some assumptions. I think at times some endings do not need as much explanation, and Baby Driver is one of those films where I would have been happy for it to end 10 minutes earlier.
Baby Driver is the film we wanted. Fun, interesting, engaging, music-centric and an interesting plot. You get all of that. Even though the action gets tired at the end coupled with an overblown conclusion you still leave the cinemas feeling rather satisfied.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.