Baby Driver (2017)

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Freshly minted, super-duper fun, uber cool, confident, thrilling, propulsive, exhilarating, inspired, geeky glee inducing… these are just some adjectives I would  bandy around Baby Driver and it is definitely deserving of even more. This is pop-culture filmmaking at its best.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young and partially hearing impaired getaway driver who can make any wild move while in motion with the right music track playing. It’s a critical talent he needs to use to survive his indentured servitude to the crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), who values his role in his meticulously planned robberies. However, just when Baby thinks he is finally free and clear to have his own life with his new girlfriend, Debora (Lily James), Doc coerces him back for another job. Now saddled with a crew of thugs too violently unstable to keep to Doc’s plans, Baby finds himself and everything he cares for in terrible danger. To survive and escape the coming maelstrom, it will take all of Baby’s skill, wits and daring, but even on the best track, can he make it when life is forcing him to face the music?

I once read that there are seven basic plots for telling any story in movies. Nowadays, hardly anyone tries to do anything remotely original anymore. “Better tell the same story and mixed it up with CGI” feels almost like a template. I can count on the fingers of one hand, movies that dare to push the envelope this year (Get Out, Bad Genius, Dunkirk) In that respect, Baby Driver isn’t original in its story – how many times have you seen a story about a nice guy who thinks he is out, but he is pull back in for one last score and it all goes to shite? It is in its execution and style that it hits the sweet spot.

Edgar Wright shot the action to the rhythm of music, not the other way around. Everything about Baby Driver and Baby is about the rhythm and the beat. Bullets exploding from gun barrels to the beat and car drifting to the tempo. The whole thing feels like a magic carpet ride to geek innercity. I love how Baby’s character is established gradually – we see his uncanny ability in weaving in and out of traffic like a bat out of hell, always a few steps ahead of the police cruisers. We see how he has different iPods with carefully curated playlists for any occasion and mood (Apple, please bring back the Classic 😬). In Baby’s world, music exists in every frame, so much so that his world turns to shite when the music is gone or when he can’t find the right tune.

Ansel Elgort brought the winsome character to life. From the very first scene, he is the propulsive beat of the whole movie. This is a career-defining and star-making role, and he nailed it. However, the movie doesn’t rest on his shoulders alone and the supporting cast is a match made in heaven. We have the “Man with the Plan” Doc (Kevin Spacey), Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), Griff (Jon Bernthal) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Just let their monikers roll off your tongue. Aren’t they cool? The characters have disparate personalities and each of them brings their own distinctive spin on their roles. These are not cannon fodder or plot movers, each of them menacingly memorable in their own way.

In the heart of it all, is a romantic interest played by Lily James. The meet cute is scored to, you guess right, music. We hear the music first before we see the face. By the time the scene hits, you would be so into Baby you know he has now something to look forward to without the movie telling you in boring expositional passages. Their chemistry is palpable and sincere. You want them to get in a don’t-know-what car and head west into don’t-know-where.

Where Baby Driver sort of gone off track for me is in the final reel where characters take somewhat jarring detours and a coda that feels too convenient, but I am not dissing this one little bit. I saw the whole movie with a wide geeky grin on my face, and the first hour is one amazing tour de force. The gears and mechanics at work are calibrated for maximum impact and the car chases are shot with such verve. IMHO this one left any movie in the Fast and Furious franchise in its wake and it is up there together with Bullitt, The French Connection and Ronin.

4.5 / 5

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