‘You’re the best in the business’ – Baby Driver (Film Review)

Rating:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a film critic really likes a film, it’s nigh-on impossible not to gush. To herald its praises with sentences full of hyperbolic sentiment and shout superlative sound bites from the rooftops. Fortunately for you, or perhaps unfortunately for you, I loved Baby Driver. I looooovvveeed it. ‘You’d best believe I’m in LOVE, L-U-V!’ So be prepared for the onslaught of  joyous proclamations that is about to commence…

It may be slightly too early to call it, but this may just be the film of Summer 2017. The film is as exhilarating car chase from start to finish, with just the right amount of poignant pitstops posed along the way. It’s truly riotous fun watching Baby (Elgort) obsessively consume music, battle with being coerced into being the driver for a crime boss (Spacey) and fall in love with beautiful & kind waitress Debora (James). Each aspect of Baby’s life is fully realised that even though we hear little from him and know little about in, in contrast perhaps to other film leads, we’re committed to him from the outset. Even when things seem so unlikely we’re cheering for them to, somehow, work out in his favour.

This can only occur due to the union of fantastic writing being equalled with a fantastic performance. Baby is a genius of a creation, a hero with tinnitus who uses music to drown out ‘the hum in the drum’ possess the kind of brilliance that you can’t quite believe it hasn’t been used before, but it takes Elgort’s superb performance to allow Baby to be fully fleshed out and realised. We first meet him at the wheel of a car, in media res during a bank heist. He’s their getaway driver, one of extraordinary skill & prowess, who waits out the heist whilst his assigned trio get to work. As soon as they leave the car Baby becomes a different person. They know him to be still & absent. When they’re gone, he’s anything but. He seems to feel each beat, each rhythm evokes movement and, cliche that it may be, he seems at one with the music. His very heartbeat replicating the tune that is being echoed into it. Moments like this reoccur throughout the movie, when Baby escapes, celebrates or even commiserates with a song. When walking in the street, earbuds firmly in place, every step is fluid in musical harmony. It could, should, look oddball. Instead he looks cool. Really cool. Instead of laughing you instead admire his obsessiveness and his innate state of serenity. It’s a truly winning performance.

It also helps that his supporting cast are also at the top of their respective games. Spacey is clearly having a lot of fun here, using some of that nastiness-under-the-surface that is a feature of his infamous role of Francis Underwood in House of Cards but pairing it up with a side of quirk. Foxx as Bats is a revelation, giving us a big old heap of edginess, a level of terrifying malice that you find yourself liking against your best of intentions. Hamm & González, as married crime duo Buddy & Darling, regularly steal the show as a pairing who would give Joker & Harley Quinn a run for their money/gun/lives. Hamm is particular is a lot of fun to watch as a man far removed from that of Don Draper of Mad Men or perhaps, as the film suggests at one point, only one step away from it.

These sequences, when the crew is all together, are the moments when the film is rather reminiscent of this year’s extremely underappreciated Free Fire. Also directed by a British director, Ben Wheatley, both films have excellent ensemble casts spitting out crackling dialogue that finds great humour in all the chaos. In fact, should the influences of both directors be cross-examined I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of crossover. Both films are also auteur pieces that, whilst set in America and have larger budgets that previous works, retain the beating heart and visual style that drew you to the respective directors in the first place.

In Wright’s case that’s the editing style – quick action montages, close-ups and orchestrating nearly every moment to music to name but three of his motifs. Whilst it may be bigger and badder (in the down-with-the-kids, this is a good thing sense) it still moves and flows like an Edgar Wright movie. It’s full of his flare be that in the action-packed sequences or the quieter two-hander scenes with either love interest Debora or foster dad Joseph (Jones). It would be amiss at this point not to talk about the soundtrack, which has the carefully chosen nostalgia-driven heart that is also apparent in both Guardian of the Galaxy soundtracks. Undoubtedly the listening figures for ‘Radar Love’ by Golden Earring will increased ten-fold in the way that Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ did three years ago.

Baby Driver is one not-to-be-missed. It’s stylish fun. A total high-speed joyride.

Hitch on or totally miss out.

  • Dir: Edgar Wright
  • Scr: Edgar Wright
  • Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, CJ Jones, Flea, Jamie Foxx, 
  • Prd: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park.
  • DOP: Bill Pope
  • Music: Steven Price
  • Country: UK/USA
  • Year: 2017
  • Run time: 107 minutes

Baby Driver is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 28th June.