MRC/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions/TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures
Written and Directed by Edgar Wright
Produced by Nira Park/Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner
BABY DRIVER generated a lot of buzz this past summer and a lot of my friends recommended that I go see it but I passed. Even though the cast includes Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal and Jon Hamm, all favorites of mine I said “Nope.” Why? Because I’ve seen three of Edgar Wright’s movies and they did absolutely nothing for me. For the record those movies are “Shaun of The Dead” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.” A couple of them I’ve seen more than once and still didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I actually cheered when I heard that Edgar Wright dropped out of “Ant-Man” as that character is one of my favorite superheroes and I really wanted to see the movie but not if Edgar Wright was directing.
So how did I end up finally seeing BABY DRIVER if I’m not an Edgar Wright fan? Simple. A friend of mine shoved the movie in my hands and insisted that I had to watch it and yes, sometimes that’s what it takes to get me to watch certain movies. I’ve been known to be kinda hardheaded, y’see.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver working in Atlanta, Georgia. Saying that he’s good at his job is the understatement of the decade. Put Baby in a car and he’s like Thor with his hammer. The things he’s capable of doing behind the wheel might as well be magic. Some time ago he made the mistake of stealing a car belonging to Doc (Kevin Spacey) a criminal mastermind and now Baby is working off his debt by making sure Doc’s eccentric crews of anti-social misfits get clean away after they stickup a bank. Due to a car accident when he was younger, Baby suffers from tinnitus and as a result, listens to music constantly on his iPod which blocks out the tinnitus and allows him to focus.
When not driving for Doc, Baby cares for his wheelchair bound, deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones) makes tapes using snatches and bits of conversations he’s recorded mixed with his favorite songs and banks his money until he has enough to move himself and Joseph away. And then he meets a waitress named Debora (Lily James) and it’s love at first sight which gives him even more incentive to want to get out of the criminal life.
Which in this kind of movie is never easy. Even though Baby has paid Doc what he owes, Baby is too valuable a resource for Doc to lose. While Baby is out on a date with Debora, Doc shows up and using a thinly veiled threat against the well being of Debora and Joseph, Doc coercers Baby into driving for his latest crew: Bats (Jamie Foxx) a hyper-violent sociopath, Buddy (Jon Hamm) who in his former life was a Wall Street mandarin until he lost it all and is now a career criminal along with his wife Darling (Eiza Gonzalez.) Baby intends to try and get out of this one last job but between the paranoia of Bats and the watchful eye of Doc he’s got little choice but to go through with it and hope that he survives to have the peaceful life on the road with Debora they both hope for.
BABY DRIVER has a wonderful old-fashioned feel to it in that these are car stunts that are obviously being done with real cars driven by real stunt people. Yeah, CGI is good for some kinds of movies but there’s an added thrill and exhilaration when we see these kinds of stunts done for real. And amazing stunts they are indeed. I’ve been watching movies for a long time and seen more than my share of car chases. It says a lot that the car chases in BABY DRIVER had me on the edge of my seat. You present me with a movie where the main character is a master getaway driver and you better show me why he deserves to be called such. Edgar Wright delivers big time on that score. I also liked how the movie has the feel and atmosphere of an independent film and not a big-time Hollywood blockbuster.
The cast is a nice mix of old favorites I’ve seen many times before and whose work I’ve always enjoyed such as Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx with newcomers I’m not familiar with such as Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Eiza Gonzalez. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea fills the “Who The Hell Let HIM In This Movie?” slot as Eddie No-Nose, another member of Doc’s band of whacked-out bank robbers. Ansel Elgort really charmed me as Baby. The scenes with him and CJ Jones as Joseph are truly touching showing them just listening to music (Joseph holds his hand on the speaker so that he can “hear” the songs) watching late night TV and eating pizza are nice moments that go a long way to establishing Baby’s true character. And Baby and Buddy have some warm moments bonding over their mutual love of music. Jamie Foxx manages to be both very funny and very scary at the same time as Bats, who as we soon learn, earned his nickname honestly.
And I’d heard so much about the soundtrack for BABY DRIVER but I truly didn’t understand what people were talking about until I saw the movie for myself and then it clicked: because Baby is constantly listening to music, there’s a reason why there’s music in this movie from start to finish. And that’s not all. Not only is the music acting as a sort of invisible Greek chorus commenting on the action and emotional state of Baby and other characters but the physical movements of the characters and the action on the screen during the car chases and shootouts are choreographed and synchronized with the music. It gives the movie a whole other level and indeed, it elevates the soundtrack to the level of being another character in the movie. The music isn’t there just to provide a scene with cool factor. It’s got a purpose all it’s own that sometimes seem to work with the characters and other times seems to be communicating solely with us.
The verdict? I’m probably never going to be a fan of Edgar Wright and it helped a lot that I’m a sucker for any kind of heist movie, especially one as well made as this. No, I’ll probably never be a fan of Edgar Wright but I’m definitely a fan of BABY DRIVER.