Music blaring, tires screeching, guns blazing–Baby Driver is an intense ride from start to finish.
It’s part musical, part car chase thriller, part love story and wholly enjoyable from start to finish; director Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is one the best movies you’ll see this year. The namesake, Baby (played by Ansel Elgort of The Fault In Our Stars fame), lives in the fast paced, high stakes world of crime where he serves as the getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey). Interestingly enough, he is only able to perform his thrilling escapes done to his favorite tunes. Throughout the film however, Baby is forced to weigh this dangerous lifestyle against his dream of escaping and running away with waitress and love interest Deborah (Lily James). All of this is underscored by Baby’s music, played on a collection of iPods he has for each mood. You almost expect the characters to start breaking out into song and dance–sometimes they do.
The opening scene is the perfect example of this, and it sets the pace for the whole movie: done to the music playing in Baby’s ears, it builds up the tension as we wait for the criminals in Baby’s backseat to go charging out and rob a bank. The tension builds, the song Baby’s listening to builds up slowly with it; as the song blares into the chorus and unleashes into blaring, fast paced music, the robbers leap into action. From here until the end of the movie, the music almost never stops rolling.
The pacing of the music with the action of the scenes is very much integral to how Baby Driver plays out. The action scenes are done to songs with long guitar solos and fast beats as Baby speeds down roads, slides down alleyways and dodges oncoming traffic. The scenes themselves would already have viewers engrossed but it’s all done in time with the music Baby has blasting from his iPod.
Even when Baby isn’t piloting a getaway car, he still manages to slide smoothly around the scenes to the music with that same deftness that he displays behind the wheel. This makes it all that more jarring in the scenes where the music isn’t playing as well. Wright made the choice of having the constant ringing sound of Baby’s tinnitus fade in when the music isn’t there to drown it out (thus reinforcing Baby’s point of view).
It’s a somewhat annoying experience initially, but that annoyance is the same that Baby has to put up with every day, so it serves to put us (or attempt to anyway) in his shoes. The scenes where the music isn’t playing are where Baby is on nervous, awkward or uncomfortable; the viewer is on edge from the ringing noise while Baby is on edge from whatever circumstance he’s in that he can’t tune out.
With so much focus on the main character, Baby delivers an engrossing performance that carries the film. Baby comes across as a quiet, funny, honest guy who wants nothing to do with the crime life at all. He pitches between smooth and awkward, either sweeping Deborah off her feet or stonewalling one Doc’s goons, awkwardly trying to sing a song or freezing up under pressure.
You would expect that with such a fast paced movie with an emphasis and sticking to the beat of a song that chemistry and sharp wit would be ideal. Instead, it’s the complete opposite. Where normally there’s chemistry between the main actors, there’s instead friction everywhere. In its own way, the lack of chemistry is the chemistry itself. It certainly works; the tension between Baby and the rest of the criminals in the room always present, not to mention the tension between the entire team. These people aren’t friends, and it shows.
In total contrast to this is Baby and his love interest Deborah, the waitress that works at the diner his mom used to. Where heavier songs play in the background when Baby’s listening to bank heist plans and talking to criminals, it’s a softer, lighter music that plays when he’s around Deborah. They lightly bounce off each other, and Baby turns into a nervous, awkward person–no longer the smooth operator that can drift through traffic and evade the police without breaking a sweat.
While the extra depth to the character is a nice touch, the entire love arc as a whole is a slightly questionable motivation for Baby. In a movie that makes a point about having great pacing, the love scenes feel rushed. Over the course of three scenes, Debora completely falls in love with him and is willing to go anywhere with him. As far as motivation to keep the movie going, Baby already demonstrates that he’s got a good heart and doesn’t enjoy this business, so adding in the love as reason is a bit cliche.
This is also an unexpectedly emotional movie as well, thanks in part to the Baby and Deborah’s romance. Baby’s mother features prominently as well, serving as a sort of inspiration for his love of music. The initial introduction of Baby’s mom (through flashbacks) felt a bit forced, but from there on the flashbacks feel more natural.
Between the music, the cast and the fast pace this movie shoots along at, Baby Driver is just fantastic. It’s a stand out title in an otherwise unimaginative field of peers, being both funny, emotional and completely engrossing. It’s easily worth considering one of the stand out films of the year.