Movie Review | Baby Driver
Movie Summary: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. (IMDb)
Baby Driver is the ultimate 'first fifteen minutes' movie. By that, I mean that you'll know whether you like it after fifteen minutes because everything that the film wants to do is evident in that first quarter of an hour.
The massive majority of movies use their openings for a variety of reasons but tend to evolve from there, using that starting-off point as a... starting-off point. Baby Driver lets you know up-front what it is and doesn't actually go anywhere with it.
As a big fan of pretty much everything else Edgar Wright has done (with Hot Fuzz rating as one of my all-time favourite movies), I’m sad to say that I didn’t enjoy Baby Driver at all, finding it to be dull, repetitive, and – surprisingly for Wright – unoriginal.
That last comment might raise an eyebrow, but the lack of originality comes from the basic plot: a low-level criminal (the titular Baby, played by Ansel Elgort) falls for a sweet waitress (Lily James) and wants to escape his life of crime only to get sucked in for one last job.
Narratively, it’s fairly straightforward and uninspired, which is what makes the poor execution such a surprise.
The central conceit of Baby Driver is the action being set to various songs, with actions and dialogue following the beat and rhythm of the music. The problem is that’s all there is – once you’re past that opening stretch, the movie offers up nothing but variations on a theme.
Even then, both Guardians of the Galaxy films and even Atomic Blonde do the whole 'match music to action' thing better - although at least Baby Driver can be given more credit than the spy film for a more creative list of song choices.
Check out the track listing for the soundtrack if possible and, if you like the music or you think you’d enjoy seeing a string of scenes set up to move in time with them, you’ll probably love this film as there’s not much else to it.
There aren’t any truly memorable scenes, with none of the chases being particularly exciting or even coming close to rivalling anything in the first three Bourne films, never mind something like Ronin which has probably the greatest car chase in movie history. The editing doesn’t really help either, allowing no sense of space or geography to develop and they could simply be racing round a single block the entire time it’s so poorly done.
Hell, we’re never really given much of a reason to care about Baby, who is near-monosyllabic and virtually humourless. What the waitress, Deborah, sees in him is never really explained unless you want to view her as being shallow and simply liking the pretty boy who shows an interest in her.
This isn’t to run down Lily James’ performance, whose performance is so perfectly sweet and innocent that even if her instant incredible romantic attraction to Baby doesn’t make any sense, you still care for her and ends up being the only reason you’ll care about the title character because you won’t want to see her unhappy.
I just want to make it clear that I’m not having a go at Elgort directly here, as his performance is obviously what Wright wanted from him, but it does mean that pretty much every other ‘supporting’ character outshines him just as much.
Jamie Foxx is great as the truly hateable Bats, and Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez are terrific as a criminal couple who make out noisily in almost every scene they share. Hamm’s character does end up going off the rails as he becomes a Terminator-like figure late on, but the earlier work stops the role from being truly wasted.
And Spacey? Yeah, he's good in this too, although his character suffers like Hamm's in changing drastically in the third act because the plot requires it. Moving on...
I just think that the movie really suffers because of the title character. He's so lacking in personality or any real warmth that there was just no connection formed, other than wanting the genuinely nice people in his orbit to not be hurt, and that's not really good enough.
Baby Driver is a disappointment, with what could have been truly memorable roles ruined by plot-driven choices, rather than decisions that make sense for the characters. I would suggest saving your time and just watching… well, anything else Edgar Wright has ever made.