I like car movies. I’ve even been known to like movies that have no other purpose but to facilitate high speed chases, racing, and hair-raising turns. If a driving movie can hook its star to a heist or a just this side of unhinged crew…well, then I’m likely to buy the blue ray sight unseen (…no judging).
That being said, let’s talk Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver:
This Doc (Kevin Spacey). He’s the mastermind, the organizer, the big giant brain…you know, the guy. Doc is an underworld boss with a knack for putting together the right crew to pull off completely outrageous jobs. He’s a tried-and-true, take his cut off the top facilitator. A matchmaker if you will.
Doc is portrayed by Keven Spacey with his signature flair for the hyperbolic and crisp dry-witted delivery. Doc brings tension to a plot that could’ve very easily gone too far in the direction of camp performances. It’s not a stretch of his acting abilities but Spacey certainly ups the threat level and skill with which this type of character comes to life on screen. He’s at his likable best and if you don’t end up with more than one quotable quote well, then…you’re not likely to enjoy my movie collection.
This is Baby (Ansel Elgort). He’s never without earbuds, a song in his heart, and sunglasses somewhere on his person; seriously, it’s like they’re breeding in his pockets. Baby is Doc’s go-to wheel man – whether he likes it or not – and the only static member in an ever-changing roster of criminals recruited to carry out brash but precisely time heists.
Baby has a way with fast cars, fabulous playlists, coasting through life with his eyes-wide open and his mind disengaged from his current lot in life. He’s a sweet-faced, speed demon living under a dark cloud that’s not only hazardous to his driving record (how he stays insured I’ll never know), but quite possibly his health. He’s a bit of an odd duck but, boy can he drive.
Edgar Wright’s written a sharp-witted, edgy, gas-guzzling story his talented and eclectic cast brings to the screen with a dark comedic timing and musicality that carves out a niche for itself among the summer movies on offer this year.
Beginning with the opening sequence and introduction to Baby, Wright distinguishes both the story and his directing style with a carefully crafted thrill ride. The story balances gun fights, high speed chases, with character reveals, and bombastic personalities. With a cast featuring some of truly talented actors giving life to a whole range of narcissistic, gun-wielding, trigger happy, adrenaline loving, sociopaths Baby Driver offers one twist and tight-turn after another (at this point I’m astonished at my own ability to not to repeated a driving related metaphor…) never resting on its last quick get away or perfectly timed quip to hold your attention.
The devil isn’t just in the details of Doc’s plans, it’s in the passenger seat.
The first half of the film flies by with a smooth blend of swing rhythms and vintage soul as its backdrop as you learn how and why Baby does what he does for a living but seems to never take any really joy in it. This isn’t a fish-out-of-water or babe-in-the-woods narrative; which is a relief because I, for one, am past tried of the “I didn’t know what I was getting into” song and dance too many movies fall back on to explain why the main character finds himself sinking further into a world where its clear they don’t belong. Baby more than earned his spot, he just doesn’t want it.
The band of outlaws he finds himself among who pull no punches on a job, lead with their paranoia, and shoot first ask questions only before deciding to shoot bring the crazy; with Bats and Darling in a tie for most likely to decide there’s no reason for you to live to see your cut.
The entire supporting cast deliciously embraced the insanity inherent in their characters and unapologetically carry this movie into the Pulp stratosphere.
The only downside in Baby Driver is Baby’s relationship with Debora played by Lily James. As an ephemeral connection, Debora is the prefect embodiment of the life Baby dreams of, carefree, seemingly happy and drifting through life humming a song. She’s the “dream;” the life he wants that just about touch.
But the reality of the relationship in the movie is shallow and overly youthful. Debora and Baby each want to escape their circumstances and be young, wild, and free (yes, just heard the chorus of that song play as I typed) to just be but neither is under any illusions about their life.
As a vehicle both Debora and her place in Baby’s life are the prefect foil for the predicament he finds himself in when his dual lives crash into one another. As a plot essential character, Debora felt interchangeable with any other type of life event that forces Baby into a corner (yes, I just heard “time of my life” echoing in my head as a typed that as well) and does very little to provide real insight into Debora as a stand alone entity in Wright’s world; which is a waste because Lilly James is more than a clear complected, coquettish smile having pretty face. She could’ve done more. She could’ve mattered more and because she didn’t the second act suffered a almost one too many down beats. But, the slow down doesn’t last very long and does little to harm the main story arc – because she’s barely mission essential – and the pace and pulse of the movie keeps beating along towards it’s divinely chaotic end.
Dark humor, dangerous high-jinks, and never forgetting that at it’s core it’s a driving movie makes Baby Driver rates high on the post-movie happiness in a field of “well, I saw it” summer movie flicks. Be sure to buckle up and hold on because there’s likely to be very little use of the brakes.
Grade: A –