Your name’s Baby? B-A-B-Y Baby?
Did anyone ever see that music video for Mint Royale – Blue? You know the one, with Michael Smiley, Nick Frost and Julian Barratt heading off to do something naughty, leaving Noel Fielding behind as the getaway driver? Oh, you do. Noel Fielding proceeds to groove out for the duration of the song, before making a speedy exit? Oh, well, if you insist – you better check it out:
Good, isn’t it? You know it was directed by Edgar Wright?
Good thing, too. Because when I saw the trailer for Baby Driver (2017) it was the only thing I could think about. It was only when I went and looked it up did I realise that Mr Wright wasn’t just ripping off a great idea for a music video, but it was in fact something of a trial run. See, Baby Driver isn’t just a new idea. Despite it being filmed only last year, Baby Driver has been in some form of production since way back in 1995. In 2007, he even received an advance for the project – despite only finishing the script in 2011.
It’s sort of crazy to think of a film being in development for longer than most of Edgar Wright’s most rabid fans have even been alive – but here it is. The best thing is, despite the length of time it took to make, Baby Driver still oozes with the energy and passion you have come to expect. In short, this is a film that love went into – and you can tell.
Now, since Baby Driver hasn’t yet been released in cinemas, I’m going to skip the ordinary overview of the plot and just focus on what has already been revealed in trailers. If you’re completely insane and refuse even to watch trailers for fear of spoilers, then I can’t really help you. All you have to know is: prepare yourself, you’re in for a great time.
Now go away.
The eponymous hero, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is a driver in Atlanta. But not just any driver – he is the driver. Specially, he is a driver of choice of professional nasty man Doc (Kevin Spacey), the master of strategy for a ring of bank robbers in the area. In debt to Doc for a past misdemeanour, Baby is obliged to work every job going for a small percentage of the reward, and he certainly earns it. Performing some truly hair raising stunts, Baby wows his crew with his driving finesse and absolute commitment to the task at hand, all to the beats of his favourite tunes playing along in his ear – a technique used to drown out the constant tinnitus caused by a childhood trauma.
Between jobs, Baby takes time to visit a local diner, where he meets – and falls head over heels for – Debora (Lily James), a new waitress with a beautiful singing voice. She admits her one dream is to hit the road west and never look back – and Baby can’t help but feel he’s desperate for the same thing. It doesn’t take long before they are both besotted with each other, entering into one of the most heartfelt and touching relationships I’ve seen in a long time.
Unfortunately for Baby, he still has unfinished business with Doc, and he continues to work as a getaway driver for the rag tag group of criminals. Notably, he is pitted alongside the unhinged gunslinger Bats (Jamie Foxx), the comically handsome Buddy (Jon Hamm) and his partner in crime, the stunning Darling (Eiza González).
As outside pressure begins to mount against the group, Baby is forced to decide whether to continue with the gang lifestyle – or whether he can pursue a life of love and happiness with Debora on the open road. Naturally, a few of the aforementioned characters might have something to say about it.
First off, I just have to say that the characters in Baby Driver are truly breathtaking. Each character, even the supporting cast, ooze charisma and screen presence. It would have been easy to create two dimensional characters to support the story, but Baby Driver goes one step further and makes each one feel like a real person – as deep and interesting as the protagonist himself, some even more so. One look at Edgar Wright’s filmography makes it obvious this isn’t an isolated example, but it is still absolutely worth pointing out. This man knows how to do romance.
The set pieces, however, are a real treat. From the opening scene until the very end of the credits, I found myself grinning from ear to ear – and I can only put this down to the absolutely flawless, breathtaking action scenes. Practical stunts, mixed with solid car chase and – get this – actual character motivation behind the wheel – add up to make this film really hold its own against every other film in the genre. This isn’t even hyperbole, either. I genuinely struggle to think of a film that pumps as much love into each and every car chase as Baby Driver. Wright’s directing even makes chasing on foot a joy to watch, which only goes to show his strength behind the camera.
The music, too, goes without saying. I really hope the soundtrack is met with as much love as certain other summer blockbuster soundtracks. Let me tell you, I’ve been listening to it as I write this review and I seriously doubt this will be the last time I hear it. Absolutely outstanding.
If I had to find a fault, I have to say I’m not completely sold on Baby. I don’t think it’s the performance (though I do find Ansel a bit obnoxious generally), he just comes across as a bit of an irritating git – though this quickly disappears after he fumbles at first contact with Deborah. By the end I was completely with him, I guess it just took that little dip in confidence to make him relatable – though I fully admit this might just be a ‘me’ thing.
Generally speaking though, this is quite possibly my film of the year so far. I walked out grinning like the first time I watched Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and that’s about as high a compliment as I can possibly give.
An absolute must watch.
Yours, A P Tyler
PS. Incidentally, the only reason I can review this so early is thanks to Cineworld and their stupidly wonderful Unlimited Card service. Not only do you get unlimited access to the cinema for a single monthly fee, but you also get money off local restaurants AND exclusive invitations to Unlimited Screenings where you can catch films waaaay before they’re due to be released.
There really is no excuse not to have one.
(That sounded good, right? They need to pay me for this shit.)