Director: Edgar Wright Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Lily James Running Time: 113 minutes
In recent years, trailers have somehow nearly overtaken films in terms of their quality. We spend months looking forward to the big summer movies, assuming that with all the money pumped into them we’re in for something new and exciting, only to have it all come crashing down when we are served with overproduced CGI crap that sees us leaving the cinema cold. But then came Baby Driver.
When the trailer was released for Baby Driver, I had some concerns. I thought that Ansel Elgort might struggle to carry a film of this calibre, and having followed Wright’s career, I wondered how he would handle such an action-packed film when his previous successes have all been so character driven. Wright’s experience with characters turned out to be exactly what a film like this calls for. The thing with heist movies is that they play well in the cinema but afterwards they tend to lose most of their spark. Baby Driver’s main strength is that it’s not really about the heists at all. The heists serve as a slick backdrop to a funny, sweet film about a good guy stuck in a bad situation.
Like all the best movies, if you watched Baby Driver with the sound off it communicates enough visually that it would still be a pretty compelling watch. Wright’s use of match on action in this film is masterful, it keeps everything moving and gives a real sense of rhythm which perfectly complements the film’s all-important soundtrack. Baby is a man of few words, so his character is built mostly with his actions. But rather than having this translate into hyperviolence as it does for Gosling’s character in Drive, Wright creates an affectionate, kind of goofy character who is fascinating to watch. I would be shocked if there were no essays penned comparing Ansel Elgort’s understated, good-guy action hero to that of Keanu Reeves (in fact, watch this space!) Watching Baby dance around and juggle his foster father’s food as he prepares it like a cocktail-maker in a hipster bar is a refreshing and unexpected scene that genuinely warms the heart without resorting to yanking on the strings. When Baby has his sunglasses knocked off his face by Bats (played by Jamie Foxx), seeing him whip out a second pair and don them unphased is a subtle bit of humour that gives an insight into his unflappable and determined nature. It would be easy to rely on the high-speed car chases to keep the audience’s interest, but Wright pushes past that building up to a scene where Baby is forced to flee on foot and Wright’s skill keeps this sequence feeling as tense and visually spectacular as those preceding it.
But of course, Baby Driver owes its personality to its soundtrack. Considering Baby has tinnitus and is listening to his various Ipods (one for each mood) throughout the film, a killer soundtrack was vital. The film starts as it means to go on with a fabulous song that makes us happy we’re outside with this kooky getaway driver and his earphones rather than inside the actual bank heist. Even when Baby is just walking down the street, by pairing this with Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle, Wright does something special. And we wouldn’t want to lose out on the dialogue, which at times is as iconic as lines from classic Hollywood – “Sometimes all I want is to head West on 20 in a car I can’t afford with a plan I don’t have” or “The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet” will stick in our minds for years to come.
If you held a gun to my head and asked me to gripe, I would point out that the film’s ending gets a bit over the top, with the final confrontation calling Karl the unkillable German from Die Hard to mind. Nonetheless, Baby Driver is a unique action film. The actions have consequences! Baby feels every single death, which prevents the audience from skimming over the casualties as we’re usually encouraged to in a blockbuster. He prevents Bats from killing a security guard even though it will put him in danger both because the guard has seen him and it pisses Bats off. And although we get a happy ending, Baby still has to answer for his crimes.
If Baby Driver were a car, it would be a Rolls Royce – flashy maybe, but with enough substance to guarantee its status as a classic. (5 / 5)
Baby Driver hits Irish cinemas on June the 28th.