Baby Driver features Ansel Elgort as Baby, a young man with a serious music obsession and the best getaway driver in Atlanta, Georgia. But before he can leave his life of crime in his rear-view mirror forever, he’s got one last job to do. And unfortunately for him, he’ll be working with a group of criminals who are all a few gallons short of a full tank.
BABY, BABY, BABY
The long-awaited pet project from writer-director Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is everything fans of his work have come to expect. The dialog is sharp, witty, charming, and revealing while always feeling somehow unnaturally natural. The movie itself is quick and kinetic without ever feeling like it needs to slow down. The comedy never misses a beat. The action is stylish and jaw-dropping, yet always maintains some level of believability. And every character, no matter how small, is memorable, fleshed out just enough, and performed to perfection by a cast featuring a mix of young, up-and-coming talent, current hot stars, and more well-established faces.
On the whole, Baby Driver is a fun, exciting, and wholly charming movie. In fact, Baby Driver might be Wright’s first feature film to be fully approachable and accessible for a general American audience. Unlike movies like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver isn’t a movie that is best experienced by fans of a particular movie genre, comic books, or video games. You don’t even have to be a big music lover to enjoy the variety of music perfectly synced up with some of the greatest stunt work ever performed and captured on film.
That all having been said, Baby Driver might also be one of Wright’s worst movies when it comes to its story and character work.
To be fair, this is a movie that is explicitly focused on the visual and audio experience. The action is front and center, perfectly performed and cut in sync with music intended to dominate every scene more than any particular bit of dialog or moment between characters. That was clearly the goal Wright had for Baby Driver, and he succeeds at this without a single misstep.
However, that does not forgive sloppy storytelling. It doesn’t forgive unearned conflict. And it certainly doesn’t forgive a plot and story and characters that, while charming on the surface, are absolutely brain dead and hackneyed from start to finish. Even those only passingly familiar with similar films will quickly realize they’ve seen this movie before.
Now yes, few will have seen stunt work and choreography and editing and music and sound design like what’s to be found in Baby Driver–certainly not executed so well. But nearly everything about the story and characters are shockingly cliche and generic.
And this should be even more surprising to fans of Wright’s work, given how he made his career by reinvigorating and exploring the trappings of various styles and genres of films. This is the same filmmaker who reinvented the zombie movie for the 21st century. This is the same filmmaker who told a compelling, original buddy cop movie while also constantly lifting from and paying homage to the many classic films that inspired it. And yet Baby Driver is a bland, uninspired story about a criminal looking to escape his life with the pretty girl he only just met but is pulled back in for one last job that, of course, goes horribly wrong. There’s no playing with the genre. No spinning of tropes and cliches on their head.
And while the generic story could be forgiven as a necessity to focus on the phenomenal, plentiful action sequences, it’s still not fresh or engaging. Many who watch Baby Driver are likely to be left somewhat disinterested in any of the scenes that largely exist to bridge and explain the existence of the aforementioned action sequences.
Even the conflicts in the movie exist for that same reason, meaning every character interaction comes across as artificial, mechanical, and contrived. Baby is only a reluctant getaway driver because the movie would have no plot or central conflict otherwise. He’s an expert car thief because the movie needs a variety of cars to explain how his various jobs can be pulled off in a believable fashion. He only comes in direct conflict with other characters because this harmless, disinterested character would otherwise have nothing better to do but flee the cops and listen to music. He only falls in love because he’d have nothing to lose by simply walking away from his life of crime.
In the end, Baby Driver is worth watching for the beautiful, perfectly crafted action sequences alone. But the big question you’ll likely face is whether or not you care to sit through the whole thing rather than skip ahead to the next cool set piece. If you’re the sort who needs a little steak to go with all that sizzle, this one might not be for you. But if can appreciate the dazzling quality and quantity of the sizzle on display, you would do right to CHILL with Baby Driver.