Cinema: Baby Driver is Instantly Vintage
Film Release: Baby Driver is the coolest film of the summer. Sure, there’s the one or two superhero flicks that hit the nail on the head, but we are in an age of Hollywood where that is a given. Baby Driver is not a given and Edgar Wright is to thank for its existence. Not to say that it was perfect like a lot of other reviews are suggesting. Particular plot points, dialogue and even casting choices block the film from reaching its true potential. What Wright does brilliantly is implement his style through tone, music and visuals to create a refreshing, high quality entertainment.
In the film, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a skilled getaway driver that uses music to time and pace his drives, while also blocking out his tinnitus (an effect caused by a car accident that killed both of his parents). He is under the thumb of a crime boss known as Doc (Kevin Spacey), who coerces him into dangerous robberies with the likes of criminals played by Jon Bernthal (Griff), Jamie Foxx (Bats), Eiza Gonzalez (Darling) and Jon Hamm (Buddy). The emergence of a captivating waitress named Debora (Lily James) gives Baby all the reasoning he needs to fight to get out of the life of crime he has ended up in.
I had the pleasure of listening to Edgar Wright speak in April at the 2017 Turner Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles. Anyone who listens to him speak knows this guy is a movie connoisseur. He is working for the sake of the craft and not the dollar or esteem. Stylistically, Wright hit a home run with Baby Driver. His meticulously designed soundtrack is synchronized with what is seen on screen, impressively blending non-diegetic sound with the character’s actions. This is highlighted immediately in one of the opening scenes, where Baby walks along the Atlanta streets as Harlem Shuffle lyrics play and literally appear in the background. From James Brown and Bellbottoms to Queen and The Beach Boys, Baby Driver’s soundtrack develops a uniquely fresh and energetic tone that is worth the price of admission alone.
One of the big things that was off for me for most of the movie was Elgort’s portrayal of Baby. Not that he didn’t do a good job, he just didn’t seem like the best choice for the role. In the beginning, Baby is dancing through the streets in a whimsical, borderline sarcastic manner that does not really fit (as illustrated by the fact that Baby is never again seen in such a manner). There are moments where he tries to implement a southern twang to his speech that comes off in an overtly obvious way. Finally, he seemed too cool for his own good. Elgort gives off a vibe that he is not going to take anything from anyone, yet that is exactly what he does most of the film; Playing fearful in his youthfulness against the daunting figures of Doc, Bats and Buddy. His portrayal stayed true to the coolness that is Baby Driver but made the character of Baby inauthentic at times. Someone like Tye Sheridan would have fit the role perfectly.
Furthermore, the supporting characters were a little too…well, caricature like (with the exception of Hamm). Bernthal was perfect, yet he was only in the movie for the first ten minutes. Spacey’s intentions were confusing, as he was playing a ruthless crime boss, yet there were moments that seem as if he actually cares for Baby. One minute him and Baby are talking friendship and the next he is threatening to kill everyone he loves. It does not add up and their final scene together demonstrates that. Foxx did not need to be in this movie. If you were wondering what his character “Mother F**cker” Jones from Horrible Bosses did when he was not hanging around the likes of Bateman, Sudekis and Day…watch Baby Driver. Only this time, his character is not particularly funny, ruthlessly annoying and frustrating to watch. Switch Bernthal and Foxx's screen time and I am a lot more satisfied. None of these characters really added anything to the movie other than their names.
Hamm on the other hand was a gem. Maybe that is just because his character was the most dynamic of all of the supporting roles, but Hamm’s Buddy is super engaging. He provides the perfect balance of likable, violent, intimidating and badass for the role. The only problem with the duo of Buddy and Darling might actually be that there was not enough of them.
Sure, it wasn’t flawless, but Baby Driver provides high intense action through riveting car chases, exhilarating gunfights and energetic music in an original format. Franchises like Marvel, Transformers and Fast and Furious have developed a formula to broadcast all of these things, but it’s repetitive after the third time, let alone the seventh or eighth. Watching Baby Driver reminded me that there is still opportunity for well-executed action outside of franchises. Then again, Baby Driver 2 is already in discussions. We will just have to wait and see. For now, Baby Driver is in theaters and is definitely the most entertaining film on the market.
Coming Soon: The third installment of the most recent Planet of the Apes franchise, War of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters July 14. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, who looks to take on the new villain of the series, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), with his fellow army of apes. Not to jinx anything but this looks to be the best and most exciting chapter of the series. With the last one being somewhat of a disappointment and the first one simply being the origin story, War of the Planet of the Apes looks to provide the franchise with its darkest and most action packed episode yet.