MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Baby Driver’ is a seamlessly constructed action flick of the coolest kind

Meticulous, bombastic and fun as hell, Edgar Wright's heist flick is everything an original summer movie should be

| June 26, 2017

If you think about it, had Edgar Wright stayed on “Ant Man,” this film would cease to exist as we know it today. After Marvel and the English director, known for such films as “Shawn of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End,” as well as an American departure with “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” the eccentric filmmaker turned to something a little safer: heist film. Needless to say, it’s impossible to expect anything safe from Wright, and the ballsy move to cast teen heartthrob Ansel Elgort in a serious film role, especially after the collapse of the “Divergent” series, was just the start. Nearly everything about “Baby Driver” seems relatively comfortable in theory, but slightly risky in its overall delivery.

And goddamn if it is not the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young getaway driver working for powerful crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), repaying him for damaged goods earlier in his life. Suffering from tinnitus (aka ringing in the ears), Baby listens to music through his headphones while doing his drives to drown out the ringing and give him a beat to escape to. After hitting it off with a young waitress named Debora (Lily James) and worrying about the safety of his deaf foster father (CJ Jones), Baby must soon make hard decisions about how he can feasibly still work for Doc, while also providing safety from his eccentric and violent co-workers, including Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm), Griff (Jon Bernthal) and Darling (Eiza González).

Do you know that strange feeling of satisfaction when a movie trailer is edited in time with its background music perfectly? That’s all 113 minutes of “Baby Driver.” This is a movie that eats, sleeps and breathes music in every fiber of its being. From its opening sequence, credits and following scenes, it becomes apparent that this is a film that doesn’t understate just how crucial music is to its existence. During each chase sequence, shoot out, fight or any other sort of action, whatever song is playing in the background lines up perfectly with each gunshot, punch, brake slam, car crash and explosion. It’s such an incredibly satisfying experience for the senses, and Wright pulls every single punch with such dexterity and precision it’s a wonder that this film didn’t take 5 years to edit.

Elgort, known for his roles in the “Divergent” series and “The Fault in Our Stars” ditches the conventional heartthrob image here for something much more charming. Elgort isn’t your typical action star, nor does his character call for him to be, but he does have a fiery attitude that we haven’t seen from the young actor before. The same goes for James, while she was lovely as Cinderella, her turn here as Debora shows the English actress can churn out some real southern charm when it calls for it, and charm she does. But it’s the supporting characters in Baby’s party that really turn “Baby Driver” out, especially that of Foxx, who gives one of his finest performances in years as Bats, the sociopathic jokester who constantly seems to terrorize Baby for no other reason than to just screw with his head. This is an incredibly fun, and sometimes even infuriating performance that can turn the incredibly likable Foxx into something a bit more punchable.

Shot in Atlanta like every other movie these days, “Baby Driver” has the distinction of actually taking place in Atlanta, not trying to masquerade the location as another city, and this addition is glorious. Having been born in Atlanta and still having much to do with the city, I absolutely love being able to sit back and watch a city that I know take front and center as just as much of a character in this film as any other character. Recognizable sites and city inside jokes be damned, I’m just glad that filmmakers are finally getting to see what an amazing city Atlanta is and how truly unique it is for movies like “Baby Driver” to exist. Would “Baby Driver” work if it took place in New York City? Sure, but it wouldn’t have the same Southern flare that Wright brings to it here.

And we haven’t even talked about the film’s choreography. No, the film doesn’t have dance sequences in it, but it is choreographed with its music in a way that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Rather than simply rely on the editing to provide all the aural satisfaction here, Wright really plans every single movement that any one makes in “Baby Driver” to an absolute science. This film feels precise an built from the ground up, rather than simply using whatever best take they had. This isn’t a film that seeks to exist on the plane of “admirable action film,” but rather in the realm of “mind-blowing filmmaking.” This sort of meticulous direction is not something you see every day, and it sure isn’t something we’ll see done correctly again for a long, long time.

And we haven’t even talked about the music itself in “Baby Driver.” While the music doesn’t completely fit my style of “90s diva pop,” the music in this film is varied and incredibly unique. This isn’t simply some kid listening to The Rolling Stones while driving, or something even douchier, but Wright has constructed a soundtrack of immense depth and range that you don’t get from every soundtrack. This isn’t a film you can define by a single genre, and neither is its music. Each song accurately represents the shooting and editing style Wright is taking on for each individual scene and it feels as seamless as a wonderfully-composed score. That being said, Steven Price’s original score is also something of beauty too, finally showing off what he can do after that killer score to “Gravity” in 2013.

If there was anything in “Baby Driver” that didn’t hit me in all the right places, perhaps it was that of its ending, which felt a bit cookie cutter for the film that preceded it, but who cares when a film is this damn cool and well-made all at the same time? So much so that I nearly crashed my car on the way home from the screening listening to “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj in what I can most readily describe as the “Baby Driver Effect,” to which I warn you to be safe driving after the film too. Everything in this film works seamlessly in conjunction with each other to a most satisfying degree. Every click, gunshot, car horn and other things all have their specific purpose in this film, and this seems to becoming Wright’s swan song as a filmmaker, but given his immense track record preceding “Baby Driver,” I can’t imagine what he’ll do to evolve next.

4.5/5

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, with Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx.
Runtime: 113 minutes
Rating: R for violence and language throughout.
Also available in Dolby Cinema exclusively at Concord Mills.

TriStar Pictures and MRC present, a Working Title/Big Talk Pictures production, a film by Edgar Wright, “Baby Driver”

Tags:, , , , , , , , ,

Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

Twitter

Comments are closed.

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

Twitter