Movie Review: Baby Driver smashes it out of the park
Baby Driver (R13)
Twenty-five years ago, Quentin Tarantino gained worldwide acclaim and changed the course of millions of budding cinephiles' lives with his breakout film Reservoir Dogs - not so much a heist movie as a post-heist movie whose interrogation of the relationships between its criminal participants delivered ecstatic gasps, delighted laughs and spawned a generation of film nerds who could quote every line. It was a thrilling ride, the likes of which has seldom been experienced in the decades since.
Baby Driver screeches onto screens with considerably more fanfare, being as it is the progeny of already-impressive British director Edgar Wright, who has himself been creating smart, zippy TV (Spaced) and films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) since at least 1999.
But this new kid on the heist-movie-with-smarts block makes for legitimate comparison for the thrills Baby Driver delivers with its sensational opening sequence, extraordinary use of soundtrack, and slick styling. The car chases (the eponymous chauffeur is a getaway driver hired by Kevin Spacey's avuncular crook) are as good as any you've seen (and yes, that includes yours, Fast and Furious franchise) and all are not merely accompanied by a smashing tune, but choreographed to the music - a feature which may exasperate some viewers but feels so fresh and vital that I roared with approval.
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In fact, the pop songs – another obvious link to Reservoir Dogs – feature not just as background music but as characters themselves, providing a salve for Baby's tinnitus (the result of a childhood accident) – his constant headphone-wearing and sunglasses eyes giving the misapprehension he's not really with it, but in fact disguising a man to be reckoned with.
Baby is played by The Fault in our Stars' Ansel Elgort, perfectly pitched as an independent young man of beguiling mystery who cannot extricate himself from his enforced criminal ways but also derives enormous satisfaction from his evident talent for it.
He meets cute Lily James (Cinderella) whose charm makes up for her waitress-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype. Trouble ensues.
The supporting players are hilarious and powerful all at once: a vile Jamie Foxx, playing the assassin his Collateral character was forced to become; Jon Hamm showing he has, if not range exactly, certainly watchability. And Spacey being Spacey. Every line of dialogue is either a laugh-out-loud moment of recognition or purposeful to the story. Characters feel developed. And except towards the very end when the film doesn't feel like it knows how to stop, the action is rollicking.
The Tarantinian comparison extends most obviously to True Romance and this is yet another plus. But to his credit, Wright has created an original protagonist, stuck him in a familiar predicament and then engaged enormous filmmaking skill to portray his story. The result is exhilarating.