Film Review: Baby DriverFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 27 Jun 2017

For all his obvious talent and the high esteem in which he’s held by British audiences, Edgar Wright – director of the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, which began with Shaun of the Dead – has yet to make a bona fide international box office hit. He probably would’ve done if he’d stayed on as director and writer of Ant-Man, a project he left for creative reasons, but with the release of Baby Driver, the clamour around what the Edgar Wright Ant-Man film would’ve looked like fades rather into the background.

Baby Driver is Wright’s second attempt to crack the international mainstream market after Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a divisive film which I liked but some found difficult to get on with. Certainly the film was not a financial success, as with so many passion projects. Baby Driver, the story of a young man called ‘Baby’ (Ansel Elgort) who works as a getaway driver for a crook named Doc (Kevin Spacey), deserves to be Wright’s first smash – it’s an exuberant, infectiously entertaining film and, despite how ‘big’ a production it is, retains a sense of individuality.

Baby is a hero to cheer for, and Ansel Elgort makes him a likeable, witty presence

On the face of it Baby Driver looks like a heist movie, a genre hardly starved of entries, but Wright’s inventive script, with its music-obsessed antihero who constantly wears headphones to focus his mind, and his witty direction, which fleshes out Baby’s love of music so that it becomes part of the mechanics of the film itself, make this picture stand on its own. From the opening stages, in which the film embraces Baby’s musical obsession to the point that it visually and sonically interacts with it, to the later movements in which that relationship begins to break down, Baby is a hero to cheer for, and Elgort makes him a likeable, witty presence – adopting some of the moody cool of Ryan Gosling’s character inDrive, but with a more carefree attitude. The supporting cast of hired goons provides a colourful backdrop laced with both comedy and threat – from Jamie Foxx as the unpredictable Bats, to John Hamm and Eiza González as dangerous lovers.

The other significant cast member is Lily James, who is really great as Debora, the waitress with whom Baby forms a burgeoning relationship. Their interactions are a joy to watch, and there’s a short, standout segment in the second act depicting their courtship, which runs entirely on their chemistry and the witty script. If the final movement – which, though fun, is a little rushed and all-too-easily resolved – leaves this relationship a little underserved, it can be forgiven, because Wright ramps up the tension and thrills.

I haven’t even mentioned the numerous car chases, which are well shot and exciting, because for me the real action in Baby Driver took place in the dialogue; or indeed the excellent soundtrack, around which most of the action is choreographed. A common criticism of blockbusters these days is a perceived lack of wit or invention – the sense that big bu dgets and special effects are often used to paper over fundamental cracks. Baby Driver is an antidote to that feeling, and deserves to be one of the summer’s biggest hits.

4/5

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