Do you like music? Do you like romance? Do you like high-octane action movies full of bullets, smoke and shrieking tyres? If you said yes to at least one of these three, then Baby Driver is without a doubt the movie for you. You’ve probably heard plenty of hype about it already – the cast includes stellar names such as Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Ansel Elgort (yes, the guy you developed a crush on several years back after you saw him play Augustus in The Fault In Our Stars); and critics have been raving about it since its initial release in the US and UK. Well, take it from me when I say that you really do need to believe that hype, because every positive thing you’ve heard about it is true.
Baby Driver revolves around its titular character, Baby (Ansel Elgort), a music-loving getaway driver for criminals. Baby is a sweet kid at heart; a fresh-faced, quirky, but quiet young adult who takes care of his deaf foster father at home, and a tinnitus sufferer who occasionally has his lows when he recalls the accident that caused his condition and claimed the lives of both his parents. As you might be able to tell, the criminal underbelly of Atlanta is no place for a boy like Baby. Yet he remains in the employ of Doc (the ever-brilliant Kevin Spacey), a seemingly kind but ultimately sinister crime lord who forced Baby into his service several years back, after Baby stole a car and several other valuables from him without knowing just how dangerous he was. Baby Driver begins as Baby embarks on his last two jobs for Doc, after which the money that Baby has earned will be enough to repay all his debts to the crime lord. But, of course, things don’t go as planned – nothing ever really does in an Edgar Wright movie, does it? – and Baby is forced to return to a life of crime once more, tearing him away from his newfound love with naive waitress Debora (Lily James), and throwing his lot in with a group of unpredictable, ultraviolent robbers.
Don’t be fooled if the plot sounds like plenty of other gangster movies out there. What truly sets Baby Driver apart from any other films in this vein that you may have seen before is its soundtrack, and the manner in which the movie plays out as if it was built around its musical accompaniment, rather than how it normally is the other way around. Baby Driver unspools like the longest uncut music video ever made as the companion to not just one song, but an entire head-boppingly catchy mixtape in the league of the soundtracks from Guardians of the Galaxy and Trainspotting. Tracks from all manner of musicians, including The Damned, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Run the Jewels, Beck, and Queen, fit into every scene from Baby Driver scene as if both film and song were tailor-made for each other. From an intimate chat between Baby and Debra in a laundromat to a pulse-pounding bank robbery, it’s no exaggeration to say that Baby Driver has the killer track for every moment, and the music is truly what drives the film to perfection.
The writing itself is fairly smart, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek meta references to how the screenplay and the music intertwine – “Your name is Baby?!” exclaims an amused Debora. “All the songs are about you!” – and Baby’s antics are often laugh-out-loud hilarious, such as demanding that the crew of robbers he is driving around doesn’t leave the car until he’s restarted his music so that the heist is in sync with the music. Even the movie’s often kitschy romantic clichés are what makes the film a feel-good hit, as opposed to an eyeroll-fest. The plot’s twists and turns are not exactly unpredictable, but certain parts are definitely not easy to see coming, either. In fact, the final act of Baby Driver unravels itself mercilessly, and death is neither sugarcoated nor glorified as the movie’s upbeat tempo keeps it steaming ahead to its satisfying conclusion.
As for characterisation, there has already been plenty of controversy online about how Baby Driver‘s characters (save for Baby) are flimsy and badly-written, but it is not entirely to the movie’s detriment. Baby Driver does not pretend to be an intellectually stimulating film – at best it is a popcorn thrill ride set to some fantastic music, or perhaps a romantic musical with a soundtrack updated for our current day and age. Baby is the only fully-developed character, whose transformation from nonchalant boy to ruthless man we see unfolding before us onscreen, courtesy of Ansel Elgort’s surprisingly impressive performance. Jamie Foxx as Bats, an impetuous and bloodthirsty criminal, is also a spectacle to behold onscreen, and his slowly but steadily building malice will undoubtedly have viewers. Baby’s love interest, Debora, is perhaps less fortunate, but although she remains a mostly bland and archetypal pretty American waitress constantly yearning to escape her life’s mundanity, it would almost be too much to expect anything more without making the film bloated beyond what it needs to be. Even Buddy (a very menacing Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), an intriguingly scandalous married couple, received less development than their characters deserved, but by the end of Baby Driver this hardly feels like a loss with the way the film’s events pan out. There is certainly a good argument in saying that the characters on Baby Driver feel somewhat undercooked, but this hardly takes away from how enjoyable the movie ultimately is in the end.
Still not convinced about Baby Driver? Well, if anything, just watch it for how adorable Baby is – and how relatable his character will feel if you’re an audiophile like me. In the words of Doc, who couldn’t put it any better: “He’s a good kid and a devil behind the wheel. What the hell else more do you need to know?”
‘Baby Driver’ is in cinemas now.