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Baby Driver - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Baby Driver
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

You want a summer action movie that is smart, clever, thrilling, a technical marvel, and packed with an awesome soundtrack? Look no further than Baby Driver.

This movie has something for everyone. Maybe I'm just too old, but it took me a while to realize Ansel Elgort, who plays the title character, was the kid from The Fault in Our Stars -- the rare movie loved by many that I did not like at all. He then moved into young-adult lit franchise territory in the Divergent series, which I skipped. But, as much as he really seems like a baby to me -- obviously deliberate casting -- plenty of young audiences will recognize him. And audiences of my age? We get Kevin Spacey, as the crime boss having Baby drive getaway cars from heists as a means to pay him back for when he once unknowingly stole a car from him. We also get both Jamie Foxx and John Hamm among the key members of "crews" pulling off these heists.

Of course, there's also writer-director Edgar Wright, who to many is a star in his own right: this is the guy who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. With Baby Driver, he offers something closer to Hot Fuzz than anything else he's done since: a genre film with a specific twist, although Baby Driver is packed with impressively-executed action punctuated less by overt comedy than delightful cleverness.

The opening sequence, ahead of the title credits, is an extended chase scene, Baby driving the bank robbers away from the scene and the advancing cops. Baby does all his work to the sound of music loaded on many iPods, and chooses a very specific track for each getaway. In this case, it's The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms," and it's one of the few sequences that last the entirety of the track's run time -- and he doesn't even drive away from the scene until a couple of minutes in. It's an effective, and efficient, way to get -- and keep -- the audience's attention.

But even after that, when the soundtrack immediately segues into the second track once the chase is over, and the title credits are rolling, Baby Driver switches direction a bit, but is no less clever. Baby is getting four cups of coffee from a nearby coffee shop, and we watch him rocking out to Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" as he walks along. Pay close attention and you'll see words and phrases passing by on telephone polls and in wall graffiti that match those in the song at that particular moment.

This kind of thing goes on throughout the film, with extended sequences choreographed to fit perfectly with whatever music is in Baby's ear buds. It can be something as simple as the tumbling laundry in a laundromat, or as complex as the gunfire during a shootout matching perfectly to the beat of Button Down Brass's "Tequila."

Conveniently, Baby doesn't have to take out his earbuds to take direction: having been raised by an aging deaf foster parent (actually-deaf actor CJ Jones), he can read lips. Baby rarely needs to take his earbuds out, nor does he want to: it helps drown out the persistent ringing in his ears since the car crash that killed his parents.

But here's one of the few parts where Baby Driver fails to be all that different from a zillion other action movies: Baby meets a girl at a local diner, Debora (Lily James), who naturally complicates everything for him. As Jamie Foxx's "Bats" says in what is possibly the dumbest line in the whole movie, "Once you catch feelings, you catch a bullet." That there is a "bullet" we can see coming from a mile away.

But, so what! Baby Driver is stylistic in a way few movies are, and its incredible editing -- particularly sound editing -- is by far its greatest asset. Hollywood has an endless history of car chases of varying quality; this one has several, all of them of top notch quality. It has an excellent performance in Kevin Spacey; a great delivery from John Hamm; and Jamie Foxx, well -- he's good enough, I guess. The rest of the cast, including Ansel Elgort, is merely serviceable -- but at least they exist in the service of one hell of an entertaining movie.

Ansel Elgort is a BABY DRIVER.

Overall: B+
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