Film review: Baby Driver is a cool ride with a credible soundtrack, but the journey lasts slightly too long
The movie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser – it ticks boxes that should appeal to almost every audience demographic
Ansel Elgort’s character Baby lives his life through music – it’s his alarm clock, his metronome, his daily diary and his way of drowning out the tinnitus he developed following the car crash in which he lost both his parents as a child – rarely a shot of Baby passes without headphones in his ears.
Baby is also the best driver out there – it seems he turned to some degree of delinquency following his parent’s death, and during his spell of stealing and drag-racing cars, he made one very bad decision: he stole crime lord Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) Mercedes along with its very valuable and nefarious cargo.
Hence, at the start of the film, we meet Baby, Atlanta’s fastest indentured labourer, forced to serve as a getaway driver for Doc’s many teams of bank robbers until he has paid off his debt.
Edgar Wright may well have made the year’s coolest film with Baby Driver – heist movies always garner street-cred points, from The Italian Job to Reservoir Dogs, and with a lovingly curated soundtrack, Wright is moving into high-score territory.
The music is so central to the movie that at times it resembles a ballet, with every movement, gun shot or handbrake turn taking place on the beat of yet another super-fresh track in Baby’s ears.
One quirky gag amusingly sees Baby, following a brief disagreement between two of his fellow hoods as they are about to disembark the car for another heist, insist on restarting The Damned on his iPod before they set off, to get things back in order.
Unfortunately for Baby, although at the start of the movie, the metaphorical internal band that governs his existence is playing like a slickly oiled machine, and the heists go to plan as smoothly as an on-form Ginger Baker, as things progress, they go a little more Ringo Starr and start to lose their rhythm. His cohorts become increasingly unhinged, with Jamie Foxx’s psychotic Bats a particular high point for the audience, but a definite low point for Baby.
To complicate matters further, his ailing, deaf foster father Joe isn’t getting any younger, and Baby has fallen in love with Debora (Lily James), a total sweetheart who shares his love of music – part of the initial appeal for her is that she could never run out of songs featuring the word “baby” to sing to him. But she is in constant danger of being unwittingly dragged into his criminal other life.
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The movie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser – it ticks boxes that should appeal to almost every audience demographic: tragedy, comedy, romance, action, fast cars, violence, musical credibility and an impressive cast. If there’s one criticism, it is that Wright possibly drags things on a little too long.
With a slightly more ruthless approach in the cutting room, this would be a solid four-stars, but by the last 20 minutes or so, as we lurch from one more not-quite-final car chase/shoot out/pile up to another, the film starts running on fumes.
In terms of whether or not Baby and Debora will successfully escape the assorted police and gangsters that want to scupper their plans to drive across the United States with the stereo blasting in “a car we can’t afford”, it’s difficult not to ask: “Are we there yet?”
Baby Driver is in cinemas from July 20
Updated: July 19, 2017 08:35 AM