Weekly Review: Baby Driver (2017)

A talented getaway driver with his own personal soundtrack has spent most of his life running heists for a powerful crime boss. When he meets the woman of his dreams, he sets his sights on leaving his shady life behind, but can he escape with his life, love, and freedom intact?

Baby Driver is an action film written and directed by Edgar Wright, known for other cult hits including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It stars Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Lily James (Cinderella), CJ Jones, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Eiza Gonzáles (From Dusk till Dawn: The Series), and Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained).

Going into this movie, I had a decent idea of what I was to be expecting because I’m a fan of Edgar Wright and his previous work. His films all have a particular style to them, in terms of pacing and usage of rhythmic editing choices. Wright is also big on using small details throughout that all end up being relevant in the end. In the case of Baby Driver, the style of Edgar Wright is very present.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 5.18.03 PM

This style is definitely the stand out part of Baby Driver. From elements like a high pitch tone that is present in the background throughout the film to match what the main character hears, minor dialogue exchanges that become relevant in a final showdown, and actions that fit the beat of the soundtrack, Baby Driver fits perfectly in with the rest of Wright’s collection of work.

You can see style elements from all of his previous films within this one, so much so that going into the nitty gritty of it all would require it’s own post. Since this is an action film overall, I got strong reminders of Hot Fuzz (one of my personal favorites of Wright’s).

Despite being such a big fan of Edgar Wright’s work, I will be up front with the fact that this film is not one of my favorites. I managed to see this one in theaters twice. On the first watch, I thoroughly enjoyed it. On the second viewing, it had lost some of its appeal for me.

One of the biggest things I took issue with, more so on the second viewing than the first, is the odd nostalgic feel to the film. It’s kind of like a hodgepodge of different American time periods all piled into one film. It took me out of it at times.

To attempt to explain this concept, the overall action and costuming in the film gives off almost an 80’s vibe, while the main character, love interest, and fantasy/flashback scenes give off a 50’s feeling. This generic, nostalgic setting isn’t a negative in itself, but I got taken out of it immediately by a seemingly 50’s type flashback where the main character gets his first music player, a blatant product placement of a classic iPod.

What better way to break the generic, nostalgic world you’ve created than by inserting a very date specific product. It was a head turner for me.

On top of that, the story isn’t anything new or extraordinary. There are definitely moments that drag and plot holes that are glossed over. It’s your typical “one last heist” movie with all of the tropes that go along with it. It’s never that simple. We all know that by now. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself. Sometimes it’s nice to see something familiar. There are always other aspects of a film that can make it stand out in the end.

What I wish I would have gotten more of is some chemistry between the main character and the love interest. It also would have been nice to know more about the love interest. As a character, she’s pretty flat. Baby Driver falls into the trap of having a love interest that is willing to give up everything to be with the main character after a few dates, with minimal connection, and practically no understandable motivation. A bit more character development in that regard would have been very beneficial.

So far it would appear that Baby Driver has been pretty well received. It premiered at SXSW fest in March 2017, before being released in June of 2017. I have seen a fair share of negative reviews however, mostly about the action and violence, the thin characters, and the lack of a strong story.

I’ve seen some critics even blast Edgar Wright’s style as having a “conspicuous lack of artistic vision,” a statement that I personally resent. There are plenty of directors that pay homage to other films and pop culture events in their work. One of them in particular is applauded for it (looking at you Tarantino). To each their own, I guess.

In any case, if you have been a fan of Edgar Wright’s collection of work thus far, you will probably enjoy Baby Driver. It might not be his best work, but Wright manages to use his personal style to create a fun action film, combining an opera of car engines and bullets with songs from decades past.

Check out the trailer for Baby Driver below.

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