SXSW 2017 Review: Baby Driver is An Action Packed Music-Infused Thrill Ride
Baby Driver is the highly anticipated new film from Edgar Wright, the creative mind behind the Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In his latest film, Edgar Wright sets out to tackle a whole new genre while also helming the story entirely on his own. Baby Driver follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a quiet young man that has been forced into a life of crime working as a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey). Looking to change his life for the better, Baby begins a relationship with a waitress named Debora (Lily James). Baby tries to part ways with Doc, but he is informed that he cannot leave the business as he is the key to all the heists, therefore, making him too valuable to lose.
Just like most film aficionados, I adore Edgar Wright as a filmmaker. I think he directs such unique films with fantastic characters and plenty of heart and humor mixed in. Baby Driver is without a doubt, Wright’s most mainstream film to date. If marketed properly, this film should easily translate into big bucks at the box office. Unlike his previous projects, Baby Driver isn’t a comedy but rather an action crime thriller with an outstanding cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Jon Bernthal, just to name a few.
While Ansel Elgort isn’t a huge film star (yet), he has made a name for himself in Hollywood. Adding Baby Driver to his filmography will quickly expand his audience reach and make him a standout among many of the other young actors working today. Elgort is the heart and soul of Baby Driver because he is just electrifying as Baby. Elgort doesn’t have much dialogue, but his facial expressions and his iPod choices say it all. Elgort isn’t just good in this film; he’s the best he has ever been. He helps to elevate every other performance in the film and bring them to a whole another level.
Lily James amazed audiences back in 2015 when she starred in Disney’s live-action Cinderella, and this is another terrific performance. James and Elgort work their magic and prove that they have long-lasting star power in Baby Driver. They share an instant chemistry, and as an audience member, you want them to be together before Debora and Baby even share their first conversation together. The introduction of Debora singing “Baby” while walking past Baby at the Diner was such a great movie moment. I also love how they are both dreamers searching for a life that neither has a clue how to obtain but aren’t afraid of failing.
The supporting cast is pretty solid as well with Jon Hamm’s Buddy and Eiza González‘s Darling being the strongest of the supporting cast members. I think Jon Hamm is a talented actor that has been trying to find the right role ever since Mad Men ended. He has tackled so many genres, and I appreciate the fact that he is trying a wide array of characters and isn’t being typecast. He is great as Buddy because it is a character, unlike anything he has played before. I was totally shocked at how well Hamm played the bad-ass. He is that damn good. Gonzalez, who I am not too familiar with as an actress, is the perfect choice for the female counterpart of Buddy. She’s sexy, but she doesn’t take shit from anyone. I love seeing this type of female character in a story where most of the characters are male.
Edgar Wright, along with his behind the scenes team are responsible for creating this wild and crazy music-infused thrill ride. The music choices are terrific, and somehow each song feels perfectly placed into each scene. I cannot even begin to comprehend how much time that it must have taken Wright and his legal team to seek out the music choices and then get the approval of the song to be used in the film. The music found throughout Baby Driver isn’t just one genre of music either. It is an eclectic mix of music genres that somehow all work at different points throughout the film.
While I could go on and on about some of the performances as well as the music choices, the most impressive element of the entire film is without a doubt, the getaway sequences. Baby Driver opens with this incredibly well-shot and choreographed getaway chase that has to be seen to be believed. It’s that damn good. This initial getaway scene sets the tone of the film while also raising the bar for car chase scenes in future films. There are several getaway scenes throughout Baby Driver, and each one of them feels fresh and exciting. Normally, you only get one or two great getaway sequences in a film, but Wright’s somehow manages to give audiences at least three or four memorable chases that are easily some of the best car chase scenes of the last ten years.
As much as I enjoyed Baby Driver, I do have to point out a few of the film’s flaws. I thought it was a bit of a waste to cast Jon Bernthal in such a small role. While I enjoyed seeing Bernthal’s character go back and forth with Baby, I felt like he was only in the film because Bernthal agreed to have a small role. My biggest issue with the film was Jamie Foxx as Bats. I think Foxx is a great actor and at certain points makes the character Bats work. My problem with the character is that he feels a bit too angry therefore making his performance feel overly exaggerated at certain points in the story. In a lot of ways, Foxx seemed as over the top as one of the evil exes from Scott Pilgrim which didn’t fit the tone of the film at all.
There are a few other issues I had with the film such as some of the character motivations as well as some of the tonal shifts that happened near the end. I thought Wright made a very cool film with several great characters, stunning chase sequences, and music choices but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the ending of the film felt rushed. It also didn’t help that for some reason I felt like Wright kept trying to push the story further than it needed simply to make the film seem to be even cooler than it already was.
However, all minor complaints aside, Baby Driver proves once again that Edgar Wright is a creative genius and can take on any genre and knock it out of the park. While I wouldn’t go as far to say that Baby Driver is his finest film to date, I will say that I was impressed by how different this film is from his previous outings and how much mainstream appeal the film has. Baby Driver is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable films of 2017 thus far, and it could finally be the film that makes general moviegoers aware of Wright’s talents as a filmmaker. Baby Driver is a film that is an absolute blast to watch from start to finish. I highly recommend checking this out on the big screen this August. It is a film that should be watched with a crowd so be sure to catch it in theaters.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Baby Driver is an 8.5 out of 10.