Monday, 3 July 2017

Baby Driver (2017) (Review)


Purposely, my review for Edgar Wright's Baby Driver had been delayed. After leaving the packed Sunday night screening, I wanted to hold off writing down my thoughts on the film to see whether the sheer adrenaline and blood pumping thrill of the chase would eventually wear off and leave me feeling a little underwhelmed on reflection; like the comedown of a sugar high, the moments directly after would feel like a complete waste when the lethargy and torpor kicked in, I assumed. However, much like my initial skepticism regarding the hype of Wright's critically-acclaimed release, I was so very wrong. Baby Driver is an absolutely smashing success and deserves all the hype it is receiving.

Baby Driver centres itself around Baby (Ansel Elgort), a driver (funnily enough) hired as a getaway driver that uses music to help choreograph his movements and manoeuvres. Working for Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby's boyish-looks prevent people from taking him seriously but his skills and precision behind the wheel are undeniable, leading to his continual involvement in the heists. When he decides to take a step back at the wishes of his father and because of the new woman, Deborah (Lily James), in his life, he finds he is unable to leave that life behind and involves himself in a dangerous heist almost impossible to escape from. Alongside Elgort, Spacey and James, Elza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx star, uniting an ensemble under the careful eye of director and writer Edgar Wright.

Baby Driver is an absolute thrill from start to end. Undeniably exhilarating, Baby Driver helps curb the sequel-heavy and franchise-friendly summer box office trend, with a picture as original as they come and all the more enjoyable because of it. Its sharp, fast and exciting film-making, with Wright the clear driving force; his talent is astonishing but he has yet to translate a critical hit into a commercial one, particularly on domestic terrain - Baby Driver, if all is right in the world, should change that. His well-orchestrated and sharply-choreographed direction ensures that the bells and whistles featured in this film do not completely swamp it in complete chaos, instead presenting us with a cleanly-cut picture with the envious ability to make its $34 million production budget feel far grander and weightier. Far too often, action sequences and chase scenes feel thinly stitched together in the post-production process to imitate something cohesive but ultimately feeling messy and in some cases completely detrimental to the film  - Baby Driver absolutely nails it though, masterfully creating an experience that fires on all cylinders with aim and precision. It achieves a sense of urgency without overblowing it. It's visually exciting and powerful, with some wonderful sequences (the laundromat being among my favourites - so very La La Land) and moments.

Wright's talent is further showcased through the excellent script: funny, emotional and damn satisfying, the picture helps the film speed along at an appropriately turbo-charged pace. His incorporation of music, the integral part of the film and its marketing that could have easily been the difference between a hit or miss, is second to none and completed so effectively; it is a collection of tracks that expertly score both the chases and the emotion with fidelity and focus. While the narrative is a little simpler on reflection, Baby Driver executes it so satisfyingly that you do not pay much attention to its familiarity - it never becomes a problem and instead sets the bar high for those that consider to adhere to the formula in the future. It has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep us on the edge of our seats, smartly weaving between the thrill of the chase and more character-driven drama, with an exploration of the team dynamics key to the third act climax. Baby Driver's characters are all fascinating enough to yearn for more time to be spent with each, a credit to Wright's screenplay, and to the actors who bring them to live.  I'd argue the script drops the ball on a couple of occasions, with a little tightening needed for the middle act to tweak a few moments that either run on too long or feel like a distraction from the main meat of the story - but you have to be picky to even notice them and, generally speaking, they do not interrupt the flow and pace of the story.

An assembled group of actors unafraid to give it their all, Baby Driver's cast is filled with an eclectic mix of talent. Ansel Elgort, upsettingly overlooked due to his previous affiliation with your more teenage-skewing cineplex dramas, gets to show audiences what he is made of, and capable of doing, with the role of Baby. He is committed, charming and naturally funny in the role, a side to his surprisingly complex character that wins audience's affection almost instantly; from his first rendition of 'Bellbottoms', you cannot help but root for the presumed underdog and by the time 'Easy' rolls around, he may just be one of your favourite characters of the year. Lily James is equally as endearing as his romantic love interest, capably sending sparks flying whenever the pair share a scene. Kevin Spacey perfectly suits the role of the criminal mastermind with a towering performance, while Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Elza Gonzalez complete the multi-faceted team of robbers with driven (ha ha) performances, making these toxic characters so engaging and captivating. CJ Jones impresses as Joseph, Baby's foster father, with an emotive performance absent of words; it is admirable to his character on screen and Jones performs the role with a beautiful spirit and delicacy. Every player in Baby Driver impresses through their sheer enthusiasm and spirit in the project which makes for a truly electrifying watch.

Baby Driver is really quite expectational and deserving of the hype that surrounds it; it is a blast from start to end, charming, witty, funny and emotional. Edgar Wright is the driving force in its success with a solid hand from the excellent ensemble cast that texture the characters to great effect. Despite a couple of very minor bumps in the road, Baby Driver is an unrelenting ride of terrific visuals, excellent action and kickass performances, fuelled by a tremendous soundtrack and exhilarating originality that injects a jolt of energy into the summer box office. You cannot deny the adrenaline-rush Baby Driver can inflict on you and you'll be hard pressed to find a film even half as fun this summer. Baby Driver is oozing with entertainment, excitement and charm and leaves you grinning like crazy. It is simply electrifying. Go and see it, please.

(8.5/10)

Summary: Edgar Wright throws so much at the wall with Baby Driver that it's a wonder any of it sticks - but with his tight direction, solid script, excellent cast and the original, exciting idea it centres around, it works an absolute treat. You should be racing to see Baby Driver, one of the year's best to date.

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