Review: “Baby Driver”

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Action has a new name and that name is Baby! Edgar Wright is back to his winning ways with his latest project, and his first American filmed movie, “Baby Driver”. It would be easy to say that “Baby Driver” is a good film just to stick with the crowd and add to its critical praise by necessity, but this reviewer is not pandering. In all reality “Baby Driver” is every bit as good as you’ve heard, and then some with top notch acting, writing, and storytelling that I promise is like few cinematic joyrides you’ve every experienced before.

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“Baby Driver” follows Ansel Egort as Baby, a getaway driver who was struck with tinnitus after an accident when he was young that took the lives of his mother and father. Baby drowns out his condition with music, using it to help him concentrate and to create a rhythm for his driving. Baby works for kingpin Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, who recruits different teams from a ragtag group of thieves, mainly Jon Hamm’s pretty boy Buddy, Elza Gonzalez’s charming Darling who is Buddy’s girlfriend, and Jamie Foxx’s excitable and reckless gun-slinger Bats, to perform different kinds of heists and sees Baby, who owes him a debt, as his lucky charm. As Baby finds himself diving deeper into the dark world of theft, he falls for a lovely waitress names Debora, played by Lily James, and begins to seek a way out of the world of crime, putting his loved ones and himself on the line in the process.

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I’ll be quite forward, I can’t really describe this movie better than one simple statement: it is fantastic! Let’s start with the performances. Ansel Egort proves to be a worthy and capable leading man, taking on the role of the socially shy and awkward Baby and fully embracing his character’s obsession with music and lyrics as he bounces around street corners and through his own apartment with a giddiness and child-like wonder that suggests both innocence, and swagger. He’s a young man with an ego, but also self-aware of the disconnect he has with the world around him. It’s truly a standout performance by an actor who, to this point in his career, had really taken a backseat to larger stars in past films. Similarly Lily James is incredibly charming as Debora, who is oblivious to Baby’s true occupation, as she believes him to be a chauffer. While James HAS in fact been the star of the show before, here she proves even more why she deserves to be a leading lady, portraying Debora as a relatively strong, but innocent woman seeking a way out of the dull life she lives in, but she never really becomes a full on damsel in distress despite her innocence. It’s rare to see a strong female lead like this really pay off as Debora feel more real than many other action movie love interests tend to be. Egort and James share amazing chemistry on screen and even when their relationship is challenged, specifically when Baby has to hide his feelings for Debora from his passengers, the two play off each other well.

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Of course the dark side of the cast is also brilliant with all the villains proving to be memorable and interesting thieves in their own right. Jon Hamm steals the spotlight numerous times as pretty boy Buddy, but Jamie Foxx proves to be an equally devious if not much more insane threat as Bats. Then there’s Elza Gonzalez as Darling who lives up to her moniker as more of a motherly figure towards Baby, joining with Buddy to defend him against insults and mistreatment but making it clear they will not let him escape if he were to wrong them. Leading them all is Kevin Spacey’s Doc and while Spacey is no rookie as a villain, I mean he’s played Lex Luthor and Frank Underwood so the has the experience, Spacey turns in a unique, threatening, and at times hilarious take on the stereotypical kingpin. Almost like a comic book villain of sorts, Doc turns out to be a likable leader to the main cast of bad guys and even shows some very human and compassionate moments as the film progresses, specifically when it comes to his father-like connection to Baby. In the wrong hands this performance could have been way over the top, but Spacey finds a great balance for Doc as do all of the film’s antagonists.

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Now I’d like to touch on the coolest and most praised aspect of this film, the music! Believe me when I say this is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, well at least when it comes to applying it to a full-length film. Edgar Wright utilized music to perfection with nearly every scene containing some sort of musical accompaniment, usually from a device like and I-Pod. Every song matches a situation, either in composition or lyrically, to the point where gunshots match every pounding note, car tires squealing add to the mood of the song of choice, and the plot itself becomes driven by the deeper lyrical meaning of the song being played. The movie avoids delving into being a glorified music video however and strikes a great balance between the soundtrack and the action. Not one frame goes unappreciated and not one song feels out of place. It’s really like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s an intriguing and frankly addictingly fun experience. We saw a brief glimpse of this “music in action” concept in Wright’s previous film “Shawn of the Dead”, but to see this put to screen as the basis for a feature length production was fascinating.

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While I could never say a film is outright unquestionable flawless, “Baby Driver” has very few negatives going against it. The movie does start out with the first interpersonal communication containing some pretty heavy exposition, and a bit of relatively messy dialogue, but this is overpowered by the casual nature of its delivery and the quality of the cinematic experience that surrounds this particular scene. To some extent the plot as a whole is also a bit predictable, but even then “Baby Driver” and writer/director Edgar Wright find a unique way to incorporate otherwise tired and overused tropes into the plot to enhance the story rather than feeling dry and dull. To put it bluntly, any place where the movie seems to have a fault it makes up for it with other aspects of that same exact scene or situation that just stand out. Put it all together and you have yourself a wonderfully entertaining action flick worthy of every bit of praise it has received so far.

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In short, Edgar Wright has done it again. “Baby Driver” is an action masterpiece like nothing we’ve seen on the big screen in years. Filled with spectacular and well choreographed car chases and gun fights, a great soundtrack, and unique approaches to both character and story that make for a truly enjoyably cinematic experience, “Baby Driver” is as good as it gets. It’s smart, it’s flashy, it utilizes unique music-driven methods to tell the story and drive the plot, and yet is still manages to provide all the adrenaline pumped action and suspense we want for any great, or even sub-par, action film to absolute perfection. It’s an action flick, a drama, a musical, and a car film all wrapped into one great gift to movie lovers everywhere. Not only is “Baby Driver” one of the best 2017 has offered in its first six months, it’s quite possibly destined to be one of this year’s greatest films overall.

 

 

 

GRADE: 5 Stars

3 comments on “Review: “Baby Driver””

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