Ansel Elgort Kevin Spacey Jon Hamm Jamie Foxx Eiza Gonzalez Lily James
The opening car chase is spectacular—and this is from someone who hates such things, along with interminable gunfire. But Edgar Wright’s wit and sensibility make those scenes in this movie entertaining. To see the driver Baby (Elgort) maneuvering through all kinds of tight spots tailed by dozens of police cars with red lights and sirens in full blast, and then later see his body “dance” in similar ways preparing a sandwich in the kitchen at home is truly a work of art.
But the most delightful—and true—aspect of the film are the characterizations of the most motley crew you’ve ever seen. Baby is beholden to a criminal boss called Doc (Spacey) who forces him to drive get-away cars to pay off a debt for a teenage transgression. Baby is something of a savant (maybe Asperger’s Syndrome) who has an affinity for driving cars and a phenomenal memory, even while listening to music with ear buds always attached and on. Oh, and he likes to record all conversations, which he puts to music in his spare time. He has a back-story that supports his idiosyncrasies and talents, which accounts for his personality and tastes. He has a deaf foster father, Joseph (C. J. Jones), whom he clearly adores and guides him in ethical behavior. Joseph is successful as a parent, because Baby has unassailable values and a conscience.
Ahem. Baby Driver reminds us that events in our lives are not always under our control, often because of the good/bad side of things. Doc is good in one sense and bad in another. He’s good with a kind of honesty—he honors his promises—but bad in—oh, let me count the ways. You will see if you go to this film. Doc’s criminal flunkies are colorful, really bad, guys. One (Doc never puts the same team together twice) is Bats (who really is) (Foxx). He cannot fathom someone like Baby and rudely taunts him, is always quick on the draw, and challenging of everyone. Buddy (Hamm) and Darling (Gonzalez) are kissy-face lovers who are only a little more sane. At least Buddy has some appreciation for Baby’s music, but that bond is fragile. There are others just as colorful.
Wright’s dialog and the synchronization of music and action with it is truly impressive in every detail. Jobs are planned and carried out with precision, while Baby waits in the car, pantomiming comically to his music. Seldom can a film be so entertaining, violent, funny, and smartly mapped out, while maintaining entertainment value and some degree of plausibility and heart. Elgort will likely be put on the map of fame and glory with his portrayal of this unusual, complex, and lovable character. He becomes smitten with a waitress (James), which makes him even more endearing.
Jamie Foxx is another standout, whose character is meant to drive everyone crazy, but is sharp as a tack. Loyalty is foreign to him, and he tests limits with one and all as a matter of course. Yet, he is funny as well. These are only some of the many loony tunes Doc recruits for his jobs.
Music (Steven Price) and cinematography (Bill Pope) support and enhance the script and are enjoyable in their own right.
One of the very best films of the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland