Box Office Democracy: Baby Driver
Go see Baby Driver. If you saw the trailer and thought it looked cool, it is all that and more and you should go see it. If you saw the trailer and thought it looked bad go see it, the trailer only scratches the surface of the depth the movie has. If you love Edgar Wright, you should go see Baby Driver because it is an evolutionary step for him that will take what you’ve liked about him up until now and turn it all up. If you don’t like Edgar Wright, you should see it because this is a complete departure from the jokey stuff he’s done up until now that I understand people found off-putting. Baby Driver is the kind of movie I would recommend to anyone that appreciates cinema as a craft. It’s a lovingly made homage to everything one director thinks is cool and it succeeds with gusto.
The plot doesn’t matter— you’ve seen more than a couple heist movies, you’ll know the first 90% of this movie backwards and forwards (they make an interesting choice at the end, I like it and it isn’t standard). There are criminals with and without hearts of gold. There are external pressures and things to be leveraged. There’s one last score and the calamity that always befalls one last score. They made a cool movie, though. The opening car chase is completely mesmerizing, the second is white-knuckle nerve-wracking, the third act is constant forward pressure. The gimmick of the movie, that Baby (Ansel Elgort) needs to listen to music at all times) means there’s a constant vibe coming off the cool music. It also means that any scene without music is immediately underlined as important. It’s a clever device and I don’t envy whoever had to pay for all these songs.
This is the best performance I’ve ever seen from Ansel Elgort, but that might not be saying much. He has to this point mostly done movies that are very much not for me, and while I might think he’s been coasting on being pretty he has fans who are likely seeing something. He doesn’t have to do a lot in Baby Driver, he plays a character who doesn’t speak a lot and who constantly wears sunglasses. He makes it work. He makes his lines work, he does his best with his reactions. It helps that he is perpetually surrounded by talented actors. He primarily works with Kevin Spacey and in his most difficult scenes has at least Jamie Foxx or Jon Hamm to push him through the tough parts. The very best scene in the movie is Elgort and Lily James dancing around in a laundromat but that might be more choreography than pure acting skill. It’s such a fun moment though.
Fun is what Baby Driver has more than anything else. I’ve seen better car chases, I’ve seen more complex crime plots, I’ve seen sweeter love stories, but I haven’t seen so many things I like wrapped in quite such a charming package. There’s an energy to the movie and it comes from the crisp direction and from the ever-present soundtrack. This might be the highest density of needle drops I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to quantify fun or why something is fun, but Baby Driver is fun. It’s as movie that spreads an infectious smile to your face and refuses to let up. It’s a movie that begs you to click on it on Netflix; a movie that you trip over yourself to recommend to friends. It’s a movie you can watch over and over again, a movie to forever be happy whittling away an afternoon.