Ansel Elgort is Baby. Baby likes two things and dislikes one -- music and driving, and talking. He's a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey) a mastermind of bank heists. Doc likes to switch up his teams, but he's been working with Baby for a long time. Some of the hired thieves are unnerved by their driver's penchant for silence filled with groovy tunes. Like Griff (Jon Bernthal), he's a little gruff, and Bats (Jamie Foxx), he's crazy. But others, like the married couple Darling and Buddy (Eiza González and Jon Hamm) get it -- sometimes you need to have that killer track. Lily James is a diner waitress named Debora. She likes Baby, and he likes her. Now he likes three things, and that's when the trouble begins.
The movie is written and directed by Edgar Wright. He likes music too, and stylish movies, so he made a movie to the beat of some cool music. He called it "Baby Driver," and set it once upon a pair of wheels.
Only Edgar Wright can make a film with hype this big and still deliver a movie so charmingly aloof from the pressures of expectations. The enlightened few who have seen his Cornetto Trilogy are a people crazy for exceptional movies, and expected no less from Wright's latest experimental effort. Wright is not in the business of fan service, and thank goodness, because making movies he thinks are good inconsiderate of others' potential opinions is the best way for him to serve his fans and uninitiated viewers alike.
Wright cuts off potential doubts and criticisms at the pass by opening the film with firm establishment of the film's tone, style, and character of its lead in the first five minutes, saying, "this is how this movie is gonna be." And with a smile on our slack-jawed expression and our toe tapping to the beat, we adjust our expectations accordingly. Then he does it again in the next three minutes. The rest of the movie, so perfectly grounded by the cold open could have gone in any direction with me happily in tow, but in the end the direction it takes is one of, well, direction.
|The plot isn't at all complex, but it takes us where we want to go.|
Comedy is put into the details as a highlight, and fun is a constant because what's a film that isn't entertaining, but then the underlying base of this film is high-stakes, important, and often intense. It has heart, it has meaning, and there are smart themes to appreciate. This is mostly due to writing that is brilliantly aware of the movie as whole even in the midst of smaller scenes, able to thoughtfully connect it all in ways invisible until the conclusion of the picture. Sure the film might only exist because someone was inspired to set a movie to music instead of the usual reverse, but then effort was put into making the story worth telling even beyond the wacky gimmick. The result is a flick that confidently stands alone, supporting its elements instead of leaning on them.
Another important conductor of the film's compelling nature is Ansel Elgort. In true form for Baby, Elgort wins us over without having to say a word. He immediately proves he's capable of handling the film's action and cheekily comedic elements, and performs precisely timed choreography to the music with gleeful aplomb. In short, the kid is adorable, and the movie is better for his presence. On the dramatic and dialogued side of Baby, he takes on a stoic demeanor and gets to underplay with just enough subtlety. Lily James is also adorable, and the two were probably incapable of not being cute together. Debora is less of a player in plot as she is a motivator of it, with not a lot of screen time, but certainly makes the best of what she has.
|A simplistic but extraordinarily charming romance.|
Other supporters feel no less characterized and caricatured. Kevin Spacey is cool and confident with a splash of complexity. Jamie Foxx is fun and always unexpected with his unstable and batty Bats. Jon Hamm becomes surprisingly sympathetic, perhaps because of his innate charm. And Eiza González's Darling is an insanely likeable chick. Details like tattoos on Darling and Buddy that read "his" and "hers" are present for gleaning more out of the characters if you so desire. It adds an implied history, enriching the characters, even if specifics are left out. Everyone involved plays comedy and drama inseparably in classic Wright fashion -- the way humor and light charm can enhance seriousness is not lost on him, and it is applied with complete disregard to screen time, making even side characters full and compelling.
But good characters or not, this movie's full focus is on action. Obviously, there are car chases, and there are gun fights, and other things you'd expect from a movie about bank robbers, but there's also some unconventional action, in the form of scene business done in rhythm with the music. As exciting as the car stunts and shootouts are -- always set memorable locations and performed and shot for maximum entertainment -- it's those precise scenes of specific and casual movement done in difficult long takes that impress with their style and the ease with which they come off on screen. The true shoot-'em-up action never forgets the music either, and while it's more sporadically synchronized, synchronized it still is. It is a thing glorious to behold and thrilling to experience.
|I loved it at ten seconds in. What's really impressive is that the longer it ran the more I loved it.|
I sometimes despair that the art of filmmaking has reached its limit and nothing will be original anymore, and then a movie like this gem will come along and restore my hope. Masterfully crafted out of a spectacular passion for filmmaking, and using all the elements of the art to push the limit to groundbreaking places, Edgar Wright and Baby Driver puts music in our ears, spectacle before our eyes, and a love affair in our hearts. My love of music and movies is refueled.