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‘Baby Driver’ exceeds expectations

I enjoyed this movie! Proceed with caution, the review below contains some moderate spoilers for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver.

I didn’t want to see Baby Driver. I wanted to see Like Crazy, a feel good movie about two women who escape a mental hospital together. Alas, my brother had his heart set on Baby Driver, and I’m not one to say no to a free blue raspberry ICEE on any circumstances, so somewhat reluctantly, I buckled up for Baby Driver.

Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t even be persuaded to watch the trailer. However, it’s very true to its title. Baby Driver follows the story of Baby, a getaway driver played by Ansel Elgort, whose music is his primary companion.

Baby’s personal playlist not only fuels his expert driving, but also shields him from a constant reminder of pain, a ringing in his ears acquired in the car accident that killed his parents. Honestly, I would watch it again just to hear Elgort coo “Baby” one more time, but the impressive car chases and expertly curated soundtrack won’t leave you disappointed.

The movie opens with perhaps the best choreographed car chase I have ever seen in my life. I’ve never watched any of the Fast and Furious movies, but I’m almost positive Baby Driver’s was more impressive, partly because it wasn’t part of the Fast and Furious franchise, but primarily because the scene lengths, and a lot of action within them, were timed to the soundtrack. It’s a uniquely cinematic feature of the movie, using the songs to set not only the tone of the scenes, but also the pacing and timing. Even if you’re not excited by the plot, I would say it’s worth the watch just because director Edgar Wright makes such a complete use of his medium. It’s really masterful cinematography.

Given that the 35-song-score of the entire movie is meant to spark nostalgia, I wouldn’t be surprised by people who went to see Baby Driver for the playlist more than the car chases. You can find the whole compilation of songs on spotify.

If you’ve seen other movies by Wright, such as Scott Pilgrim VS The World and Shaun of the Dead, you have a better idea of how completely thorough this movie feels. Every line of dialogue, every action, every aspect of the plot, the scenery, feels incredibly deliberate and well thought out. This unfortunately seems to be a dying form in mainstream movies as theaters are over-run with saggy sequels and unnecessary reboots.

Another thing I really appreciated about Baby Driver was the humanity given to such steadfast archetypal villains. Traditionally, bank robbers are the bad guys, point blank. But here, every character is completely 3 dimensional, and Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, is a perfect example of this. It would’ve been easy to just let the audience resent Doc for forcing Baby to continue a life of crime that he so clearly loathed, but instead, Doc was oddly paternal and protective, making him impossible to hate.

Usually when I go see a movie in theaters, I end up checking my phone to see what time it is when there’s still about 30 minutes left. This did not happen during Baby Driver, which was certainly due in part by the work of the movie’s supporting actors. Stand-outs include Jamie Foxx, who maintained a vital sense of power in his role as deranged and threatening bank robber Bats. Duo Darling and Buddy, played by Eiza González and Jon Hamm, emulated a classic Bonnie and Clyde partnership, oozing danger and sex, whose raunch made Baby’s blossoming love for waitress Debora, played by Lily James, all the sweeter. Their relationship unspools across a table in a diner and I found it completely swoony.

While Darling’s badassery and Debora’s innocence did delight me, Baby Driver unfortunately fails the Bechdel Test (two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man). Both exist primarily as love interests, which is a bummer as many other characters could easily have been female without changing the course of the movie at all. Similarly, there were only four prominent people of color in the entire cast, Jamie Foxx and Eiza González, as well as CJ Jones, who played Baby’s adorable step-dad, and Lanny Joon, bankrobber JD in the film. While this is certainly a better mix than a lot of movies, when Baby Driver inevitably gets it’s own remake, we’ll hopefully see more much needed diversity.

Despite some room for improvement, Baby Driver was definitely the best movie I saw this summer. I give it 8.5 stars out of 10, and a green light, even though Baby doesn’t care what color the light is.


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