Director Edgar Wright (of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame) loves to wear his influences on his sleeve and his latest film Baby Driver is no exception – channelling the classic heist film Heat and avante garde car-chase thriller Drive, though not to its benefit. This rock and rolled fuelled thriller places Ansel Elgort behind the wheel as Baby, the reluctant getaway driver for a ragtag group of bank robbers (played by a supporting cast of Jonn Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, and Jamie Foxx).
Baby is the wayward kid who has lost his parents and then lost himself in the criminal world, always “one job away” from freedom, he is the silent but strong type with the troubled past but the heart of gold, who eventually wins over the girl that sees him for who he really is. If you feel like you might have watched this film before, you probably have… but it wasn’t Baby Driver.
Suffering from severe tinnitus that he was inflicted with in the car crash that killed his parents, Baby drowns out the constant ringing he listens to a collection of iPod’s strangely containing music a 43-year old would listen to. Wright stated that he first envisaged this film when he first started driving as a teenager, with that in mind it’s no wonder the film comes across as a contrived adolescent daydream.
Less of a heartfelt tribute to Wright’s favourite music and heist films, Baby Driver is a horrific Frankenstein’s monster – glued together with cliches and overdone tropes – stumbling down a formulaic plot that we are all familiar with. If Picasso’s words are true, “Good artists borrow; great artists steal” – then Wright has been caught redhanded.
To give the film credit, the action-packed car chase scenes were fantastic technical feats captured with engaging cinematography, and that worked well with the soundtrack. My only issue was with the audio visual synchronisation, which worked great when used sparring, but quickly began ruining the immersion. For example, the jarring synchronisation between percussion and bullets – that only serve the film as self-congratulatory pats on the back.
As impressive as the chase scenes are, they aren’t enough to carry the movie through the scenes outside of the car, the shoehorned romance, or the subservient and inconsistent side character who conveniently change their convictions at every turn of the story (looking at you, Kevin Spacey).
Baby Driver boasts a generally enjoyable thirty song soundtrack, including bands such as Queen, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beach Boys. It was a fact used heavily in the marketing for the film, but in retrospect perhaps Wright should have prioritised writing and character development over song clearances.
The end of the film tempts viewers to believe Baby and Debora will drive off into the sunset – after all the story is entirely concluded at that point, instead the police catch him and throw him in jail. Though it has no real consequence because seconds later we cut to him out of jail and we are back on track to the happy ending drive into the sunset that Wright detoured us from like the cunning matador he is. Bravo Edgar, what an interesting extra ten minutes you’ve added to the film.
I would have preferred if Edgar had stolen the ending of another well known car-themed musical, Grease. Having the car inexplicably fly off into the sky would be perplexing, but at least it would be unique.