Baby Driver


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1994 was a great movie year, both in terms of what was released and in relation to my film going habits. I was just in my twenties and at university and in those days we’d head off to the cinema most weekends making a decision on what to see when we got there. On the rare occasions that there was nothing we wanted to watch then we’d just go to the pub. These days cinema trips involve planning and babysitters but back then it was easier and a lot more impetuous and if we really liked a film then there was a good chance the soundtrack would end up on our shelves and the poster on our walls. 

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Those twelve months brought a wealth of excellent movies including The Shawshank Redemption, Four Weddings & a Funeral, Speed, The Hudsucker Proxy, Heavenly Creatures, Clear and Present Danger and The Mask. There was also a raft of cool crime films where we as an audience were asked to identify with some quite violent characters because they were good at heart and victims of circumstance and often because they showed this in being kind to the innocents they linked up with on their way to retribution or redemption. Tarantino was a big part of this with Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers (and True Romance the year before) but there was Léon and The Last Seduction and Shallow Grave as well. This was before 12As so directors were not holding back to get that slighter bigger audience and these particular films felt new, exciting and uncompromised. Yes I know Scorsese and Peckinpah and Hill and Penn pushed these envelopes first but I wasn’t around then. This was my time and these were my movies. 

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Watching Baby Driver today took me right back to that year. Films like The Artist, The Force Awakens and La La Land harked back to a different decade of cinema and deliberately or not Edgar Wright’s latest does the same thing. Just like Léon, Pulp Fiction and True Romance it has a criminal hero who is cool but conflicted and surrounded by people even more dangerous and unpredictable than he is. Just like Léon, Pulp Fiction and True Romance there is a girl, sinless but incredibly forgiving of the disturbingly amoral behaviour of the man she loves. Just like Pulp Fiction and True Romance it has an amazing and eclectic soundtrack and just like all those older movies it has a 15 certificate. I may have been sitting on an orange sofa drinking an Americano rather than having a creaky fold down seat and a bucket of watered down cola syrup but in many respects it was just like it used to be when I was 21.

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Baby Driver, taking its name from the Simon & Garfunkel track, centres around a guy named Baby who is a get away driver. In debt to a gangster he is obliged to work any job he is assigned to but he’s not a career criminal and he wants out. He’s good at his job though so his boss doesn’t want to let him go. He gets greater motivation to move on and more risk in doing so when he meets a girl but he is prepared to go to great lengths do what he has a reputation for being good at; getting away. The film is not as broadly comedic as Edgar Wright’s previous work but has all of the director’s usual style and like Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz it plays with movie conventions, albeit in a more subtle way.

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The central couple are played by Ansel Elgort and Lily James. This is definitely Elgort’s best work so far, moving away from the affectations of The Fault in Our Stars and the blandness of Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant. Baby’s quirk is that he listens to music all the time to drown out his tinnitus and the character can barely operate without it. Lily James has previously proven herself across a range of roles but it is good to see her moving away from period dramas. The cast also features Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthall, Flea and most notably Kevin Spacey as the Don. Look out for a nice turn by newcomer Brogan Hall as Sam as well.

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The script and the story are everything they need to be but what Baby Driver utilises particularly well is its music. In the same way the tunes are an integral part of the protagonist’s character so too are they woven right into the film. These tracks do not underscore the action they infuse it. The movie almost operates like a musical with spinning wheels and gunfights shot in time to the beats. Including artists like Dave Brubeck, The Beachboys, Queen, Blur, Barry White, Martha Reeves and Danger Mouse the soundtrack is full of stuff you know and already love and stuff don’t know but will love as soon as you hear it (just like Pulp Fiction).

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Essentially Baby Driver is just cool and totally entertaining and despite its comparisons to other films it feels fresh and original. It has comedy and action, in places it is highly gripping and it ends in a satisfying way. I really enjoyed it and the me of twenty three years ago would have just loved it. Nice poster too, I’m sure I’d have found somewhere for that.

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Is this one for the kids?
There are some beatings and violent deaths in Baby Driver but they don’t linger over anything and there’s nothing too upsetting for an adult audience. In this respect it doesn’t compare to Pulp Fiction and True Romance.
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The Ripley Factor:
Lily James’ Debora is a little passive at first but only as much as most waitresses would be in similar circumstances. By the end she is more proactive and she does move the plot forwards. 
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Eiza González also features as one of the gang members and she more than holds her own against the men. There is a suggestion that she is an ex stripper which would be a sexist cliche but this is not confirmed and the comment mostly serves to highlight the misogyny of another character. 

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Neither of the two main female characters are objectified. 

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