Back in 2011, the internet was set ablaze by reports of a lawsuit against the Ryan Gosling film, Drive: wherein a woman from Michigan claimed the film’s trailers had misrepresented the experience the movie would provide and that Drive was not, in fact, the exhilarating action romp she had expected. Six years later, the plaintiff can finally rest easy as it seems Hollywood has given her the thrilling getaway driver film she wanted. Fast, boisterous, and endlessly entertaining, Baby Driver is that film, and while it has as many problems as it has car chases, you ultimately won’t care about any of them as you’ll be too busy enjoying the ride.
Baby Driver follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway driver who uses headphones and his own personal soundtrack to drown out the persistent ringing in his ears: a symptom of the tinnitus he acquired in a childhood accident. Elgort’s character drives to the beat of his music as he assists in bank heists to pay off a debt to a local kingpin (Kevin Spacey) and quickly finds himself caught between his criminal affairs and incipient love life with young diner waitress, Debora (Lily James). James isn’t given much to do outside of interacting with the title character, but she and Elgort have a clear and palpable chemistry that will keep audiences invested throughout. The supporting cast is made up of a bevvy of lively and eccentric felons, portrayed by a captivating collection of actors that includes Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Eiza González. Each performer is brilliantly suited to their roles and use the full of their talents, resultantly making the secondary characters feel as authentic and fleshed out as the protagonist himself.
With a resume that includes Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, director Edgar Wright’s films are essentially cinematic candy: simple, colourful, and difficult not to enjoy. That said if you don’t find yourself entertained by Baby Driver within the first fifteen minutes, the rest of the movie is unlikely to win you over. Every frame of the film is firmly cemented in Wright’s signature style and each scene feels painstakingly crafted to the director’s vision. The attention to detail on display is genuinely inspiring, with every gunshot edited perfectly in time with the ever-present soundtrack.
With music having been so heavily integrated into the film’s marketing campaign, it’s shocking that the soundtrack is among the most disappointing aspects of the film. The song selections are largely forgettable, particularly in the action set-pieces, and many fans will likely be dissatisfied with the music, which doesn’t quite hold its own against that in Guardians of the Galaxy or Suicide Squad. Most disheartening is Baby Driver’s climatic battle, in which Wright seemingly attempts to rekindle the magic he achieved in Shaun of the Dead, here exchanging "Don’t Stop Me Now" for a less recognizable Queen classic and the result is unfortunately flat and unmemorable.
The script also has a few notable problems that prevent the movie from being among the best of the year. Many films often feel the need to have their villain inexplicably rise from the dead in order to repeatedly challenge the hero, but Baby Driver takes this cliché a few resurrections too far, with the antagonist’s wounds often healing at rates that could rival Wolverine. In typical Edgar Wright fashion, the film is also slow to start but thankfully revs up its engines in the latter two acts. Even then, however, the pacing can feel forced at times, with action sequences being inserted without the support of incredibly strong character motivation or substantial story progression. While the plot and structure are neither flawless nor particularly innovative, Baby Driver never feels predictable and is perpetually brimming with charm.
The combination of Edgar Wright’s filmography and early critical buzz set lofty expectations for Baby Driver, which it doesn’t always meet. Still, the movie boasts a likeable and unique cast of characters, plenty of thrilling and clever action sequences, and just enough emotional weight to keep you invested. Despite being entirely absurd, nothing ever takes you out of the experience for as much as a second, distinguishing the film from most blockbusters you might see in theatres this summer. Wright is clearly a firm believer in ‘film as entertainment,’ so despite Baby Driver’s flaws, it’s difficult to argue that the film is anything but a success after it leaves audiences exhilarated, satisfied, and yearning for more high-octane adventure.
Director: Edgar Wright Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment Release date: June 28, 2017 (United States) Running time: 113 minutes