Synopsis – After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
My Take – In a summer dominated by franchises & never-ending sequels, an original film sets itself apart as a breath of fresh air, especially from a director who has remained constant in delivering all this years. I think we all can agree that Edgar Wright has a perfect filmography at this point and definitely deserves to be ranked as one of the finest directors post the year 2000. One of the reasons why director Wright deserves all the praise directed towards him is mainly because with each and every film he crafts reeks of originality, he takes a few similar traits, throws them together, delves down a completely unexpected route and forms something unique, something masterful. Clearly a fan of cinema, given how much he references them in his own work. Heck, his Cornetto trilogy films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) are love letters to various genres while telling good stories about friendships. Plus, you can always count on him to load his films with plenty of good humor and wit. When tackling the action genre, Wright proves more than capable of splashing the screen with immense laughter and intelligence without tossing its thrills aside, a common problem among many entries of the genre. But his work has come of the best editing that I’ve seen. Not only is he good at creating speed and pace, but his use of sound (and not just music, but little sound effects) makes his work rewatchable just so that you can catch every little joke he threw in. Here, with director Wright at the helm, an all-star cast and an enticing trailer, I had high expectations for this – and boy did it deliver! This is not only an extremely well-cast and choreographed film, it also offers up excellent car chases, excellent characters, an excellent soundtrack and displays the best of writing in this subgenre of action films. Heck, this just might be the best film of Edgar Wright‘s career.
The story follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), an unparalleled talented, tinnitus-suffering, music-infused getaway driver, who works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a criminal mastermind, who recruits an ever-changing mix-tape of villains for each job, which usually include people with psychopathic & chillingly dangerous people. Unhappy with this his situation, Baby seems to get himself in the mindset by constantly playing music, depending on his mood and situation. This extends to his home life where he cares for his foster father, but also mixes his recorded conversations into songs. However, Baby’s glad that his recent mission with robbers, Buddy (Jon Hamm), his wife Darling (Eliza González) and Griff (Jon Bernthal) gets him closer to settling a long running personal debt he has with Doc, mainly as he seems to be finding some new happiness with waitress Debora (Lilly James) who has a similar interest in music. With payment in full of his debt to Doc on the horizon after performing a mission with the ruthless Bats (Jamie Foxx), Baby thinks that his life of crime is finally over and sees this as his opportunity to make a clean break and to ditch his shady lifestyle of crime. But when Doc approaches Baby with yet another job, Baby must decide to whom his allegiances lie and protect those he loves. This Edgar Wright film is exactly what I think about when I define the term ‘a good time at the cinema’. From the first scene itself we are into an incredible display of excellence in writing, directing, and the technical elements of a motion picture creation. The magic of this scene lies in the ability for Wright to wow the audience without leaving anyone “out there in the dark” (Sunset Blvd) overly stimulated or left with the feeling of utter exhaustion. The scene is perfectly stimulating. It sets the bar high for the film, and continues to keep it up there for the entire runtime. The film breaks so many genre conventions that it is unacceptable to disrespectful to the film to refine it to one genre. The best comparison I could give is if Heat, Bonnie and Clyde, An American in Paris, Reservoir Dogs, and Drive had a cinematic orgy and produced this child. The film is so fast-paced that you can hardly breathe. The suspension of disbelief, or how much you actually believe the story that is taking place on the screen, is flawless within the film. Most crime stories bore me these days because they get too caught up in either sex or malicious violence. While the film is certainly darker in its own accord, it has a story that doesn’t dance in one area. A combination of love, action, and crime drama, the storyboard writers get props from me for crafting a decently balanced story. I was particularly impressed with the style of characters along with their development and the witty dialogue. It’s actually reminiscent of a Tarantino film in that way, but with Wright’s uniquely talented touch too obviously. Lilly James‘s Debora turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, much to the film’s benefit, and plays an important role both as a possibility of escape for Baby and as the mandatory love interest, especially in the latter half of the film. Kevin Spacey’s Doc was a perfect neutral character – the story kept you guessing who’s side he was really on, and he was always enjoyable to watch, sporting some of the best lines and a black Mercedes S-Class which really suited his character. The rest of the criminals were also well written and well used, especially with how the antagonist of the film was essentially the lack of trust you could have in your fellow heisters, giving the plot plenty of freedom to make all of them equally dangerous to our antagonist. There are genuinely laugh-out loud moments in the film, with one of the highlights for me being JD tasked with procuring Michael Myers “Halloween” masks for a heist. On the surface, this might be perceived as being just another good excuse for a lot of CGI-driven car stunts in the style of “The Fate of the Furious”. But here, the action and car chases are exciting and plenty throughout. Director Edgar Wright relied on practical realistic stunts than CGI which is always the best. Feel like the car chases were more alive and thrilling than the film Drive. Unlike the Fast series, the car scenes are almost secondary to the fabulous story and character development in the film. Just like the pace of Baby’s driving, the pacing of the film is exquisitely handled and couldn’t be better! The biggest difference between this robbery/getaway film and similar films such as The Fast and the Furious is substance. In addition to the incredible cinematography and sound design paired with out of the world car chases, the film provides heart, soul, and qualitative substance that forms the foundation upon which the more superficial elements are laid. The direction gets serious when Baby is wanting a way out but is forced into this world. While he wants to go far away and live his life and fall in love with Debora.
He tries to protect Debora from knowing whom he works for and keeping his team from knowing who she is. The often subtle, and occasionally not so subtle, edits between scenes are also truly masterful, making this filmgoer laugh-out-loud with delight periodically at the film-making skill on display. The theme of the film is music (he is always wearing headphones if you haven’t seen the trailers), and that means you need a strong soundtrack. Like a lot of Edgar Wright’s previous films, it’s all orchestrated in musical perfection. While this is not a musical, the constant songs are almost like a character in the film, giving us a reminder how music can make or break a film. The first five minutes perfectly set up the comedic, but badass tone with the use of “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The film keeps up it’s fast pace throughout the 115-minute runtime. Think of this as a modern day American Graffiti if it had bank robbers. Additionally, director Wright makes sure that every song serves a purpose, allowing each one of them to shine. Perhaps the most impressive of the film’s many technical aspects is the editing, handled expertly by the duo of Jonathan Amoss and Paul Machliss. Director Wright‘s carefully curated soundtrack works perfectly in conjunction with whatever’s on screen, allowing for the film to develop a unique, energetic rhythm unlike anything I’ve seen. The speed and tension was conveyed with utter dexterity, is truly a delight to watch. My only complaint with the film would be the ending. Sure, the ending in comparison, is certainly unique and took many directions I liked in the form of being non- cliché, artistic, and exciting on many levels. Yet about fifteen minutes of the ending was dragged out entirely too long and started hitting that ridiculous level Hollywood often hits. The vicious parts were a little overdramatic and the predictable twists just led to more run time that wasn’t really needed. Still it wrapped up nicely and had a self-gratifying finish, it just didn’t need to be that complicated. The cast couldn’t have been more brilliantly selected! One of the hallmarks of an Edgar Wright film is the charismatic leads that display solid chemistry on screen. Ansel Elgort (Fault in Our Stars, Divergent) is really strong in the lead role and I really hope to see him do more serious roles like this. While the film undoubtedly belongs to Elgort in the lead role, who does a tremendous job acting opposite so many established stars, I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed Jon Hamm’s role. Hamm simply owns it as Buddy. While Jamie Foxx might be more of a scene- stealer as the unpredictable Bats, it’s Buddy that truly kept me on the edge of my seat. However, Foxx shines as well, delivering a performance entirely unhinged and yet, wholly believable. As for the rest of the cast, Lily James (Cinderella) is stunning and shines as well, bringing a lightness to the proceedings that provides a nice balance to the hardened criminals that make up the rest of the cast. Kevin Spacey makes for a great criminal leader, delivering another electric performance in a career full of them. And Eiza González, who plays Buddy’s wife Darling, turns in a solid turn as well, fierce and sensual in equal measure. Unfortunately, Jon Bernthal is wasted in a small role. On the whole, ‘Baby Driver’ is an utterly engrossing high-octane action comedy that delivers on its promise of being stylish and fun.
Directed – Edgar Wright
Rated – R
Run Time – 115 minutes