Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, CJ Jones, Sky Ferreira, Jamie Foxx, Eliza González, and Jon Hamm
Length: 1 hour and 52 minutes
Genre: Action, crime, music
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.”
A young getaway driver known only as Baby (Ansel Elgort) works for a crime boss named Doc (Kevin Spacey) after boosting a car in order to pay off his debt. Baby is a driving virtuoso with a quirk; he has to listen to music to tune out his tinnitus. After completing a job, he returns to the diner where his mother once worked and meets Debora (Lily James), a beautiful waitress Baby wants to get to know better. Baby lives with his deaf foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones), who wants Baby to quit his life of crime. When Baby completes what he believes to be his final job for Doc, he takes Debora out to dinner, only to learn that his getting out of the criminal life won’t be so easy.
Baby’s parents were killed in a car accident, causing his tinnitus, and his love of music came from his mother (Sky Ferreira). He has a recording of her singing, and has made a hobby of taping his conversations with people and sampling them to make mixes and songs. This quirky hobby does come back to bite him later on when it is revealed to his fellow criminals. Each of the other prominent characters’ personalities match their chosen aliases. Bats (Jamie Foxx) goes on and on about how crazy he is, and Doc is the organizer of their heists, an expert and authority in the criminal world. Darling (Eliza González) is initially kind to Baby and so is her partner, Buddy (John Hamm), who connects with Baby through their pasts boosting cars and loving music.
The music that Baby listens to forms the soundtrack of the film and often syncs up with the diegetic sound in the film. Car horns, door-ajar-alarms, and gunshots all fall into place and in step with whatever song Baby is listening to at the time. As with all of Wright’s films, the visual and aural components work to enhance the experience, and though music is the driving force of Baby Driver (2017) (I’ll not apologize for that pun), the background of the film adds plenty.
The opening credits, set to “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl, shows Baby going to coffee and walking through the streets of Atlanta. The walls behind him are graffiti-ed with the lyrics of the song in correspondence with Baby listening to it. There is another scene where Baby and Debora are getting to know one another in a laundromat and all of the washers and dryers have clothes that are red, blue, or yellow and follow this pattern throughout the background.
Baby Driver (2017) is not without its faults; though there are some comedic moments (like one of the criminals buying Halloween masks of Mike Meyers as Austin Powers when he was told to buy masks of Michael Meyers from the movie Halloween (1978)), the plot and tone easily fall into the traps of heist movie stereotypes despite the humor and heightened focus on music. The pace also dips in parts which adds a feeling of labor when the climax and denouement of the film drag on. Wright is truly a visionary director and remains one of my favorites; Baby Driver (2017) would be a good film by any standard, but it just feels underwhelming when looking at Wright’s entire body of work.
Verdict: 3 musical movies that aren’t “musicals” out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of heist movies, fans of Edgar Wright, those who like characters being associated with a specific color, people who like car-drifting movies, fans of music, and fans of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.
Not recommended for: People who like movies that have a strong third-act, people who dislike heist movies, children, or those who dislike yodeling during firefights.