Rated R: Violence and Language Throughout
Reviewed by: Benjamin Ferrarini
“Baby Driver” is the newest film from writer director Edgar Wright who is best know for “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “World’s End”otherwise known as the Cornetto Trilogy. “Baby Driver” follows a young getaway driver, Baby played by Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as he works for crime lord Doc portrayed by Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”). Baby is a reluctant participant in these heists, but doesn’t have a lot of options as he is working of a debt he owes to Doc. But, his desire to escape increases as the people he is forced to work with grow increasingly more psychotic. Crooks like Jamie Foxx’s (“Django Unchained”) character Bats who plays up his “eviler then though” persona by maiming and killing without provocation. It all comes to head when Baby meets a local waitress named Debora played by Lilly James (“Cinderella”) and decides to go on the run with her.
Even though Wright is known for making action comedies “Baby Driver”, while having some humor, is not a comedy in the same vain. This is a action, crime, drama fueled by the nonstop music tracks on Baby’s iPod. Those tacks are the pulse of the film, driving the tone and emotion of Baby’s character as he navigates through the deadly world he hopes to escape from. Much of “Baby Driver” has a kind of lyrical quality. The driving scenes which show off Baby’s skill behind the wheel feature practical stunt work and offer some beautifully crafted set pieces. The dialog when it’s at its best likewise has a kind of flow that offers enough characterization to keep you invested in Baby’s journey. Even the cinematography has it’s own rhythm. The camera is continually moving throughout the film, at times feeling like it is dancing through the scenes. This all works together to make what could have been a generic story about a reluctant criminal into something with style and heart that transcends it’s parts.
I also give credit to Wright with his twist on the genre. One of the draw backs to traditional heist films is the ambivalence audiences feel about rooting for characters who in other films would be considered the “bad guys”. Most attempt to skirt this with the concept of the “moral thief”. Some one who is doing a wrong thing for a right, or just, cause. Think “Oceans Eleven” or “Italian Job” where the adversary is so much more evil or unjust that the heroes are exacting just vengeance or else bear a Robin Hood mantle. “Baby Driver” avoids all of this because it doesn’t even attempt to rationalize or moralize the thieving. This is a corrupt world populated with crooked people who do bad things. Baby is told right at the beginning that he will become one of them if he continues in the life. What’s at stake isn’t just Baby’s life but his character, who he is and who he will become. It also gives a look at what happens when an honest person is pushed too far and what they may be willing to do to get away from a corrupting influence.
While I think the pacing is solid over all, there is a segment in the second act where things slow down a little too much. It offers an important look at what life could be like if Baby were free from driving for Doc, but at the same time it lasts a little long and skips a beat or two. Also late in the second act Bats and some of the others criminals start to invade Baby’s personal life which leads to added confrontation within the group. These scenes were a little forced and could have been set up better so that it felt more organic but these are very minor flaws in what is otherwise a well crafted film.
Baby Driver is as a fun action pact ride that doesn’t sacrifice the intelligence of its material or its audience (cough, “Transformers”) to deliver a thrilling adventure. It is as smart as you’d hope an Edgar Wright film to be and rates with the best crime films in the genre. If you are not a music fan the relentless pounding beats pouring from Baby’s ear buds might put you off, but if you enjoy music, action and cleaver writing then this is one of the best films you’ll find this summer.