Happy 4th of July! It’s been a while since I’ve last written a review. I’ve been a few different places, experienced a few different things, and seen a few new movies along the way, including Wonder Woman and The Godfather on the big screen! Unfortunately, I just haven’t had time to write about any of them, until now. And so today, we’re talking Baby Driver, the latest from writer/director Edgar Wright.
Wright is among the most creative, meticulous, and original cinematic minds working today. I definitely rank him among the best auteurs to have come about in the 21st century. He’s the man Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End (all three collectively known as the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy), as well as Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. He was set to direct Marvel’s Ant-Man, having worked on an adaption for almost a decade. However, he had to sadly withdraw from the project due to creative differences with the folks at Marvel Studios. So, Ant-Man was directed by Peyton Reid and ended up being a good movie despite the drama, and Edgar Wright is coming out with a fresh, original movie four years after releasing his most recent film. And he comes out with guns-and tires-blazing.
I mean that, blazing is perhaps the best adjective I can think of to describe the movie itself. It’s a fast paced, fine tuned heist thriller that delivers on the thrills. Wright’s direction is as pitch perfect as ever, with every detail being thought out and executed with extreme precision. If you’re a fan of his, then you will feel right at home with this movie. It feels like an Edgar Wright movie, meaning that it’s: fast-paced, lots of fun, and has heart too. In terms of direction, one cannot help but be in awe of Wright’s handling of the action sequences that involve so many turning parts, while keeping to the beat of his cinematic rhythm. It never feels like the movie misses a beat; it’s pace is constant and consistent. For such a high octane, large scale production, that’s very impressive. There is more going on in Baby Driver than in his other movies, from an action standpoint; but it feels as if he’s right at home in the director’s chair and is as confident as ever in his vision. This feels like growth for him as a filmmaker, and that’s exciting.
But in so many ways, it still feels like his other movies, and I like that. This mostly comes through in his writing, which still manages to achieve relatable emotion through the well realized characters. Everyone has their own clearly defined personalties and motivations (for the most part), and none of them are really anything like the other. That’s a very hard thing to do in a screenplay, especially one that moves along as fast as this. The fact that he was able to pull it off is nothing short of spectacular. He savors the little details in each individual, and those details make all the difference in the world when it comes to character.
Other than Wright working behind the camera, Ansel Elgort is the star of the show, playing the title character, literally named Baby. If I must be honest, he was my biggest concern going into this movie. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a good actor, I think he’s a very good actor actually. My only hesitation was that he never struck me as a “cool” actor in the sense of the tone being set by the trailers for the movie. I was sure he could pull of being a cool, likable teenager; but this movie seemed to be going more for a Reservoir Dogs style kind of cool. But man, did he prove me wrong. I’m walking away from this movie being a much bigger Ansel Elgort fan, because he oozes cool in this movie. I instantly bought him as both the relatable good kid trying to get out of a rock in a hard place, and as a hardened criminal who was willingly to do anything for the ones he loved. And also, he does a killer job lip-singing. With his shades on and a true sense of self-confident swagger from beginning to end, I really thought Ansel Elgort was the best part of this movie. He’s simply the definition of cool as the titular Baby.
Another stand-out for me as Jon Hamm, who plays a crook in the gang Baby’s hired to drive for. He’s very likable and also at the same time very scary. He’s convincing as both, and is able to switch from one to another in an instant. He gave a great performance.
Jamie Foxx is also in the movie, and while he’s good in the role he’s given, I do think he could have dialed back his character just a little bit and been even better. At times, he felt a bit cartoonish in a movie that’s filled with cartoonish characters. He was so cartoonish at times, I mean, that he exceeded the limits set by the tone of the movie. For the most part, though, he was good.
Kevin Spacey is very good in the role he’s given, although I will say there was an odd character moment for him that felt very convenient, meant to only to drive the plot forward. That’s not his fault, and he does his best to sell it. Still, I felt it was an odd decision by Wright to have his character do this specific action at a point in the movie, and it stayed with me when I left the theatre as the only bit that felt like plot-driven writing mores than character driven writing.
Lily James is very good as the love interest of Baby, Deborah. Her’s is an adventurous spirit that feels like a perfect match for the young driver. At one point in the movie, they are referred to as “Young Bonnie and Clyde”, and I felt that was an appropriate reference. She sold her commitment to Baby, delivering genuine emotion when she needed to, and she paced herself perfectly during romantic scenes, moving to the beat of Elgort’s drum or setting her own rhythm all together, allowing for the chemistry between the two characters to really feel natural.
One must note the overall rhythm of the movie, as it’s been praised most for it’s soundtrack and the music in the movie is a key character point for Baby. The movie is almost edited to the beat of each song, and that’s something I really appreciate, as I try to do it in my own smaller projects. It was neat to see that sort of thing brought to the big screen in a way where it really felt like it mattered. And the song choices themselves are just really good songs.
While I don’t think I’d say that this is my favorite Edgar Wright movie (I believe that title will safely be with Shaun Of The Dead for a while), it’s definitely very good and does feel like a progression for him as a filmmaker. It’s one of the best movies of the year, easily, and I will probably go watch it again just to try to keep up with the beat of it’s drum for parts I might’ve missed upon my first viewing. If you’re looking for a good summer movie, this is the definition of what you’re looking for; and it’s very original as well, which is something I think we all need more of from the studio film industry. For Baby Driver, the chance taken on originality pays off in spades.
PS- be sure to catch Hudson Meek as Young Baby in a couple of flashback sequences! He was a part of a short film I’m working on, and it was awesome getting to see him in such a big movie from one of my favorite directors! Great job, Hud!