director: Edgar Wright
writer: Edgar Wright
starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Lily James
genre: Action | Crime | Romance
released: 28 June 2017 (USA), 13 July 2017 (Australia), 27 July 2017 (Germany), 17 August 2017 (Greece)
They were so many things to dislike about this film before seeing it. One of which was the swanky trailer to get the young crowd in, second was the silly character gimmicks to make the main character more characteristic, third the casting of star and age appropriate actors for the young & older crowd to be swayed in and last, but not least, the especially loud and cool music that shouted out the fact that this film is hip. All in all, the marketing of the film was the exact opposite of the film I wanted to see and it also so happened to be spot on regarding the film I had already started viewing while in the cinema. Although, that was until it's pace and tone changed for the better during the film's second act that made into a much more enjoyable film that its marketing hoped you believed it was, instead of assuring you of that fact.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) stole the wrong car as a kid and since then he has been paying his debt to a big time gangster as a driver for various heists across the years. When his debt is close to being payed out, Baby is under the impression that he will leave that world behind with no strings attached. What Baby though will soon come to find out is once you enter that line of work, its' very difficult to ever get out. As one way or another your pulled back in, along with everyone else you hold dear.
Baby's story is a tale of old, a kid caught up in the wrong group, paying his dues and once he has enough money aside and a girl to ride off into the sunset with, something goes wrong (Layer Cake). This is a story everybody can gravitate to as it shows a protagonist that has courage, smarts and is in the end also a romantic thrill seeker. The issue with the film is that it adds a background to the character and gimmicks that are characteristic to the extreme, while also cliched. The fact that he always wears earpieces, has more than 10 iPods are a few amongst many. The only positive about these characteristics is that they do have a point in the story in the sense they are utilized for either comedic or dramatic effect later on in the film and not only to sensationalize the audience as with the first scenes of the film. Although, that is not to say that we couldn't have lived without them. Scenes such as where Baby is prancing around like a ballerina to music and mouthing the words of songs could have been easily exchanged with him just being a troubled youth that got too deep into the criminal world and who had some skeletons in the closet he was too ashamed to show off.
This uppity and laid back behaviour by Baby leads to a very light in tone first act that doesn't work, as its unrealistic and too childish of a character's behaviour to have us believe that he had been doing this job for years and only just recently had started seeing people get beat up and killed in front of him. It ruins the realism of some of the events and its too much of a contrast towards the second half of the film where everything goes to hell for him and his gangster friends. It would have been much better if it was treated as that Baby wasn't as innocent as he first seemed and little bit more on the ball with the characters he was hanging out with. As again it really is out of place to see him getting the talk from either Jamie Foxx or Jon Hamm's character's when he's been doing the job for god knows how many years.
Another issue is when things get hairy, and his romantic partner played by Lily James is nonchalant about his revelation as a shady character, there was no suspicion on her part of who he was behind the wheel and what characters he hanged out with. And while I'm aware people will mention things such as 'love knows no bounds' I would have to say also stupidity I guess. In addition to the 'the diner scene' that others might shout out, that if anything that was a moment for her to run, not stay and be committed to be by his side.
Then there is the issue with the film and the genre it takes place in. I myself am not as old as the filmmaker Edgar Wright or enough of a film buff as him to know all the films he's paying homage to within the film and truth be told while watching it, it felt as many times this plot was too whimsically unrealistic to be set in today's world. One with the 24-hour new cycle, internet craze, mass surveillance and high security society we all live in. It seems counterproductive or out of the place of the pop culture for anyone to be a criminal to the extent of the good old days of 'Bonny and Clyde' and the Five New York crime families that all led to great films and powerful movie genres. Today all these criminals have had to become more creative and reserved. As it seems too easy for anyone to be easily caught or be this good and crafty in their criminal profession. Now, that is not to say heists don't happen today, it just seems as that phase in society has passed. Think of the serial killers that were the craze in the 80's and 90's and that led to films such as 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Copycat'. This film seems more fitting to be set in the 60's and 70's, instead of 2010's decade. Albeit, it does still work even with some of the sadly larger than life moments that cinematic they may be, were little bit too much to swallow (Baby jumping over speeding cars).
On a more positive note, I must applaud Edgar Wright for his writing in terms of the individual nature of each of the gangster characters and what they bring to the movie and how their allegiances changes depending on the situation. They all have a role to play in Baby's story and some go on a direction unexpected and make the film a whole lot more entertaining. Edgar Wright also is one of my favorite directors in terms of talent behind the camera. He has a vision that many in the business lack, is in touch with the pulse of pop culture at large and can handle ensembles of star casts adequately. He can also make his films memorable in their scenery, characters and dialogue just with little touches through dialogue, shots and editing. This can be noticed through his previous films 'Shaun of the Dead', 'Hot Fuzz' and now with 'Baby Driver'. Even if that means I will not enjoy each new element he might bring to the table, he still does an above average job than your average Hollywood director.
Furthermore, this film has received a lot of great press for its driving action scenes and its music. Deserved to the point that most of the film is without any special effects, but not in terms of having a standout scene to be on par or to put to shame car chase scenes such as in 'Bullit', the 'Bourne' films or even the 'Matrix Reloaded'. About the music, it was mostly too annoying in the beginning to cherish and it only started becoming more meaningful towards the ending such as with the Queen song that had significance to the events in the film. Without Baby acting like a child that is unaware he's hanging out with criminals on heists, it might have been a different story.
Yet, it is that second and third act that saves this film from having been just a flashy heist film with pretty faces and fast cars. There is an effort made for Baby and his romantic interest Deborah to have a connection. A simple one at that, but a connection nonetheless. They both aren't the brightest cookies, but they are trying to move up in the world and being both charming young actors doesn't hurt. Additionally, the old timey scenes where they are fantasizing the life they would have had in another era was a nice touch. Moreover, as mentioned regarding the change in tone and pace in the film wasn't only due to the romance but also to the raising stakes. With Baby not having realized the danger he put his loved ones in and further complicating matters with the allegiances changing within the gangster group. Contributing to some of the best scenes in the film and some great suspense.
This film was either going to be a date film or full on alpha male type film all about muscle and cars. It ended up being a better date film that the female audience will come to love much more than any of the 'Fast and Furious' films I guarantee it. And while I wanted more of that primordial machismo aspect to be in it. It's still an entertaining flick that isn't a sequel or a remake and for that reason alone you wouldn't be wasting your time.