Frenetic director Edgar Wright returns with Baby Driver, a star-studded heist movie about a music-loving getaway driver and his desire to leave crime behind him. How can you lose? Darren, Lee and Lawrence review.
Sometimes, reviews are superfluous. The movies in them are too big, too anticipated for a critic’s voice to matter, especially if the critics in question are all singing off the same hymn sheet. There’s only so many ways to say how good something is, and unlike with negative criticism, there isn’t anything for readers to sink their teeth into zinger-wise. Constant good reviews are the anathema to a critic’s life in many ways. Why read what everyone already knows?
I guess no one is reading this review either.
Baby is a young man forced to become the driver for a particular crew of bank robbers in Atlanta. With a penchant for music, fast cars and a need to take care of his ailing stepfather, he’s been on the wrong side of the tracks for too long in his life. With the promise of just one more job, he hopes to take his life back.
Edgar Wright is easily one of the great directors of this generation. No one on the scene at the moment is better at details and minutia, and what any other director would let slide, Wright revels in it. Here, his screenwriting skills craft an engaging story that hits all the right notes with regards to pacing, characters and themes – everything’s sharp and on-beat.
With a soundtrack that isn’t as distracting as say, Guardians of the Galaxy, but captures the right feel, scene-to-scene, moment-to-moment with a genuine appreciation and knowledge of each and every genre. It’s the kind of thing fans of Wright have come to expect. Scott Pilgrim proved he had the musical chops and knowledge and his other works such as Hot Fuzz showed he knew how to put in all the quiet and subtle details that you might miss the first time around.
For me, the opening scene with Baby dancing down the street, words of the song graffitied or hidden in this single sustained camera shot, was the one to really reel me in. The direction here is the strongest part of the film.
Sound then plays such a major part of it, with easily 90% of the film scored with different genres or musical styles, never allowing a quiet moment to really develop. On the rare times there is no music, a low pitched hum can be heard constantly, mimicking the tinnitus that Baby suffers from. Sound and movement, or more accurately vibration, are a constant. And while this could easily be annoying or even distracting, it somehow works very well highlighting and even softening key moments in the film.
If I had to complain I’d say the third act suffers a little from having too much going on. Plenty of heel turns and subversions of expectations, and they are done well with some nice foreshadowing, but it can be a little messy towards the end.
That and the lack of any real development in the relationship between Baby and his Stepfather is a bit of a missed opportunity in my book. The movie focuses on the love story Between Baby and Debora, and considering the ending, it’s understandable, but I wanted a little bit more time with the stepfather who is the only person that Baby is seemingly sticking around for. The dynamic between them is good, but there is still so much that can be done with a music-obsessed young adult and a wheelchair bound deaf geriatric.
In conclusion, it’s a movie that has everything going right for it: great soundtrack with some real toetapping moments (Brighton Rock by Queen being a highlight), good story with some well-developed characters and acting, plus some of the better driving action you’ll see this side of Death Proof.
But let’s be honest here, you’ve already seen it, enjoyed it and bought the soundtrack.
I know I have.
Simple concept: how do you give your movie a pulse? Give it a beat. How do you make it fast? Give it some rock. How do you take it slow? Give it some soul. Cool? Jazz. Tension? Funk. Build the mood-board from the ground-up, wrap a story around it and film something to fit and you have a gig in movie form, just cut on the bar.
Baby Driver might seem at first like it’s going to be shaking the knowing car-chase pastiche stick, or even the too-smart-for-its-own-fun stick, too hard to allow the audience to take the work on show seriously but, mercifully, Bernthal’s exposition thug slips quietly into the background and leaves us, caught up, in perhaps the most entertaining and well-crafted action movie this side of John Wick.
Here, director Edgar Wright trims the hyperactivity from previous visual-narrative adventures to give us his most refined to date, a story that still has its share of neat transitions and kinetic storyboarding, but also marries all the effort with a lead character and story that calls for it rather than makes a joke out of it.
Cars take up most of the action, but the real emphasis is on kinesis – of any kind. Characters dance, twirl, squeeze-in, parkour, speak in sign language; anything that keeps the rhythm on screen with the rhythm off-screen. Dialogue is punchy and one-liner driven, and the soundtrack forms a skeletal framework that evolves music video form to music movie form without ever having to say it out loud.
While the romance maybe sticks too closely to the rule book, it does fit the overall rigid simplicity of the moral standpoint: be good, even when doing bad, and the world should be fair. It’s the kind of daydream hopefulness that cements a classic that already has everything else going for it, though perhaps we shouldn’t clap too hard for borrowing so many sentiments.
Like a really good cover, the highbrow jury will be out on whether it snuffs the older competition, but the people who just like a good pop song when they hear it won’t have any real demands on their mind other than “can I dance to it”? With Baby Driver: why, yes, you can.
[Very mild, probably actual relief-bearing spoilers ahead]
Director Edgar Wright and Cinematographer Bob Pope may be the best film editing duo there is.
In any other review, about any people, that would probably be a backhanded compliment, or at least a “damned by faint praise” situation, but here I say it with complete sincerity. Obviously, that’s not all Wright’s good at; I could write pages and pages singing his praises, but if there was one thing I could point to as his creator’s thumbprint, one thing I could identify an “Edgar Wright” film by, it’s the editing. That particular style of scene and camera transition that lent itself so well to visual comedy has served dutifully through the Cornetto Trilogy, but how does it match up in other genres? Baby Driver marks Wright’s first mainstream non-comedy film, and while it possesses that distinct humorous tone, make no mistake, this is an action movie through and through.
Normally I would write a brief synopsis to give you an idea of what the movie’s about, but it’s a synopsis you’ve heard a dozen times before: a good-hearted guy with an incredible talent turns to crime to pay a debt, and what was supposed to be the One Last Job goes horribly wrong, forcing our hero to put everything at stake just to make it out alive with those he cares about, as well as his conscience, still in one piece.
It’s not a synopsis that does the movie any favours. You’d probably put it back on the shelf where you were browsing if it weren’t for the names attached and the kickass DVD cover. But much like Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, this movie almost feels like a self-imposed challenge in style. Indeed Baby Driver is the Anti-Drive, Equal and Opposite in equal measure. I can see the two featuring in future classrooms, they’re perfect “compare and contrast” material.
Every character is cool and likable in their own way, even the characters that are very much supposed to be not-cool and not-likable. Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx are guaranteed good shows, but everyone has brought their A-game to this movie, big or small. Even throwaway barely-supporting-cast members have an air of authenticity about them. There’s this guy, Eddie No-Nose, who maybe gets three lines in the entire movie, but you can bet your ass they’re good ones. His name is Eddie No-Nose.
The chase scenes are bursts of controlled chaos whenever they’re not bursts of uncontrolled chaos, but there’s a good sense of coherence, you never lose the thread or have to reorient yourself. That’s not to say there aren’t any fine details; in typical Wright fashion there’s no shortage of small homages, references and Easter Eggs – I look forward to picking apart the DVD release.
Much in the same way there’s no possible way a film like 8-Mile could ever not end in a rap-battle, Baby Driver’s climax is what I could only really describe as a drive-off. Let me be clear that when I say “Drive-off” I don’t mean a race, or even a chase, strictly speaking. I mean a drive, off. While speed is an undeniable variable, you don’t judge a dancer based on how fast he dances, you judge him based on how well he can dance, so too is the case here.
Really, I’m struggling to find anything negative to say; it surprised me in the choices it made almost as much as it surprised me in the choices it didn’t make. As far as I was concerned CJ Jones’ character Joseph had a blinding neon “I will die tragically to indicate it’s personal” sign blinking merrily away just above his head and I was shocked and delighted to see this was not the case (the actual “shit’s real” death is far, far more gratifying). Expertly paced, tightly written, and coming apart at the seams with character; this is the movie that the marketers of other movies try to trick you into thinking their movie is. Baby Driver is what you go to the cinema to see. So, go see it.
(Note to Ed: I’m not sure myself, but is this my first A+ rating? If so, it couldn’t have gone to a better movie. It’s just as well I have to actually write this review out, in person I would probably just desperately try to explain my enthusiasm for this movie with intense arm gestures and facial expressions.)