Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver, Comedy, Edgar Wright, Eliza Gonzalez, Hot Fuzz, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Movie, Movie Review, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shaun of the Dead, The Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End
“Baby Driver” is an action-comedy helmed by acclaimed director Edgar Wright, the man behind the Cornetto Trilogy (“Hot Fuzz”, “Shaun of the Dead”, and “The World’s End”) and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”. My expectations were very high for this movie, not just because I love all of the films that I just mentioned but because I have complete faith in Wright as a filmmaker. Wright is the king of visual comedy – he’s a masterful director and skilled writer, so in my mind there was no doubt that this film would be as enjoyable as all of his others.
Thankfully, (and predictably), I was right. “Baby Driver” is a well-paced, accomplished, and highly entertaining film which will appeal to film-buffs and casual moviegoers alike. It’s a movie which is funny in fits, but it’s also very action-heavy with a focus on visual style rather than a constant barrage of jokes.
The music and the cinematography meld together perfectly and together they make the film equal parts beautiful and cool. They’re synchronised together in such a way so that gunshots and the slamming of car doors hit the same beats as a song that’s playing on Baby’s (Ansel Elgort) iPod, giving the film a level of detail that you can’t help but be impressed by as an audience member.
The music feels like a character in itself, as cliché as that platitude is, and it’s as important to the film as the story. In an interview I watched yesterday Kevin Spacey described the action sequences in this film as a kind of dance, which in my view is a very apt way of understanding what’s going on in terms of direction and performance. There’s a degree of choreography and preciseness that you don’t see often in film, and whilst it may be the case that the actors were improvising at certain points and adding their own flavour to the instructions that they were given, there’s a distinct feeling that Edgar Wright knew exactly what he wanted from every actor in every action sequence in the film.
The performances in non-action-orientated scenes aren’t quite as impressive as their action scene counterparts, particularly from members of the supporting cast like Jamie Foxx and Eliza González, but they’re still good and the characters are reasonably well-realised despite the fact that we don’t know a lot about them.
Much like Baby in the film, we as an audience come to understand the characters simply through their actions during and after intense car chases, so it’s difficult to delve into exactly what makes them tick. We don’t learn a lot about why Bats (Jamie Foxx) is so volatile or how ruthless Doc (Kevin Spacey) can be as the mastermind behind the chaos; these notions are inferred through the story rather than explained to us through exposition. This isn’t an outright positive or negative of the film, it’s just a point worth noting when considering how the characters are built and why some of them can feel a little thin at times.
Moreover, it’s important to note that whilst some of the supporting characters are somewhat threadbare Baby has clear motives and is easy to route for given his circumstances. He’s a likeable character and the performance of Ansel Elgort goes a long way to achieving this – he does an exemplary job especially when you consider the fact that he isn’t given a lot dialogue. It’s also worth mentioning that Lily James gives a strong supporting performance as Debora in a role which could’ve been forgettable. It’s not that the pair bring the house down, but they’re both pleasant and charismatic as protagonists and together they have solid chemistry.
If there’s one criticism that I would level at this film it’s that there are a couple of characters who aren’t consistent in how they are portrayed, both in terms of performance and in terms of writing. These characters are Bats and Doc, played by Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey respectively. Bats is immediately set-up to be the antagonist of the film but Foxx’s performance just isn’t powerful or threatening enough to portray a sense of danger given that we don’t know anything about his backstory. Most of the time he comes across as an antisocial common criminal rather than as a genuine threat to Baby, and it’s disappointing that he couldn’t bring a greater sense of menace to the character considering that Jon Bernthal appeared at the start of the film playing an almost identical character (Griff) with more vigour.
The issue with Doc is less to do with Spacey’s performance and more to do with storytelling. For the most part Spacey is playing a version of himself in this movie; he’s not particularly captivating but he’s still a recognisable face and at no point is his performance distracting or annoying. The problem is that in the third act Doc does a U-turn in character by deciding to help Baby escape the police, something which doesn’t fit with how he is presented up until that point. There is a small suggestion that he could be a kind of antihero in a couple of earlier scenes, but he also forces Baby to keep driving by threatening to kill everyone he loves if he doesn’t – there’s no real coming back from that from a narrative perspective. His change of character is in service of the story and doesn’t feel natural or earned, which is disappointing in what is otherwise a very intelligently made movie.
Nevertheless, this is a stylish, smart, and charming film. It’s a movie that you’ll want to see again once you’ve watched it and it’s most definitely another string in Edgar Wright’s impressive bow, so I can’t recommend it highly enough.