Baby Driver Review
Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Flea, CJ Jones, Lanny Joon
Written and Directed by Edgar Wright
Director of Photography by Bill Pope
The latest film by way of Edgar Wright carries all of the same qualities that make his films stylish and unique. Baby Driver is very much the evolution in Wright’s filmography, utilizing his love of action films, his stylish direction, and his pension for creating something out of the box, yet the film doesn’t hold itself together in much the same way his previous works have done.
A Stellar Opening
Baby is a getaway driver for a crime boss. After wanting to leave his life of crime and run away with his waitress girlfriend, he’s pulled back in to complete one last job that might not go as planned.
From the opening sequence, Baby Driver is slick and smooth, carrying itself as an action comedy. The action sequence that opens up the film is brilliant and shows the wonders of pulling off practical stunts rather than just relying on the wonderment –– and ease –– of CGI. Wright clearly has a love for exploitation films of yesteryear and was reminded of the infamous car chase sequence in Bullitt.
Elgort injects a tad of quirk with his timing to Bellbottoms by The John Spencer Blues Explosion. Another sequence, which shows Elgort dancing and singing through the streets of Atlanta to buy coffee is shot almost like a music video with the lyrics of the song plastered on storefronts and construction signage. Plus, that scene was done in one take, which film nerds would just gawk over.
The action sequences are melodic in nature, matching the sound effects of gun shots, punches, hits, gearshifts, and more to the beat of the music. It’s a trope used in many movie trailers today but it’s nothing never seen before at this scale and scope. For that, the editing is tightly structured, never missing a beat (pun intended) and flows like water.
An Imperfect Middle
The film, however, as a whole is quite boring. Despite opening with an action sequence that blew me away, there was very little keep me interested. It’s dramatic moments felt stagnant and never reach the excitement felt in Elgort’s driving. James and Elgort’s chemistry is fine and would have made the film much less enjoyable if I didn’t believe their courtship.
Baby Driver feels like three films stapled together to create a feature-length film. The first act of the film never flows into the second act and the second doesn’t flow with the third act. Wright thrusts his audience from act to act in a jarring way that feels out of place from what came before. The first third of the film is light; the action in the film is seen from afar or we focus on Elgort waiting in his car.
An (Okay) End
The second act takes a dark turn as we follow Bats, Foxx’s character. While Foxx is excellent –– the film’s standout –– his psychotic angle feels like a completely different film. The final act then turns into a revenge film that feels like another film but doesn’t skimp out on the fun. In fact, if the film’s fun factor remained consistent throughout, Baby Driver would have much more enjoyable to watch. Instead, I tolerated the film for the near two-hour runtime.
Wright under-utilizes Jon Bernthal with his appearance lasting only ten minutes of the film. Same could be said for Kevin Spacey whom I felt was underused.
There’s a lot in Baby Driver that appeals to many people: great action, great music, and carrying that signature Edgar Wright style. However, the film never quite makes its quieter moments as intriguing as its louder moments, falling short by what could have been my favorite film of the summer.
I understand why the film has gotten so much praise as it got –– it set out to try to accomplish something different and I could respect a filmmaker that takes risks –– yet Baby Driver just didn’t work.