Baby Driver – a film review

I used to watch a lot of films but now I notice that finding the time to watch a movie in one sitting is proving difficult, mainly because of the usual evening start time but also because of the overwhelming urge to sleep after sitting for a prolonged period of time.

I’m such an old woman.

So, I have started to watch them in the day when I am doing the ironing, the standing position meaning I am less likely to relax and therefore, fall asleep and the use of a hot electrical object encouraging vigilance. It also makes ironing marginally more pleasurable…marginally.

Such were the conditions when I watched Baby Driver which I had heard was good. I quite like Edgar Wright, the writer and director, having first experienced his brand of humour in Channel 4’s Spaced in the UK which showcased the early talent of Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, now Hynes. I also loved Ant-Man which was enormously entertaining especially giant trains and was quite possibly my favourite Marvel movie of recent years – it was just the right side of silly unlike Shaun of the Dead. Sorry, Edgar.

Having added Baby Driver to my list on Netflix some time ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t rushed to watch it but sometimes, you need to explore something a little different. All I understood was that it was about a young getaway driver but beyond that, nothing.

It started with one of the most entertaining car chase scenes I think that I have ever seen and it set the tone for the movie straightaway. Fast-paced with a tempo provided by the music – it was great!

Baby is the getaway driver who is paying a debt back to Kevin Spacey’s character, Doc. Baby listens to music all the time, partly because he’s got tinnitus from a car accident that happened when he was a young boy and he uses it to drown out the noise, ironically enough. But there is more to it than that as it is also very much a part of his existence, something from which he gets a lot of pleasure, like an emotional crutch. Without music, there is a sense that he would wilt away.

As a result, the musical soundtrack is as much a character in this film as any of the people. I loved this aspect of it, probably because music is a love of mine and as its presence can make such a difference to the way you feel, its importance can’t be underestimated. In this film, it is presented upfront in a way that means it cannot be ignored: it is parading itself infront of you in all its finery and you can do nothing else but take notice.

With music in mind, I have to mention the sequence, which is beautifully orchestrated by Wright, of Baby walking through the streets whilst listening to Harlem Shuffle which is, in my opinion, movie magic. Contrived but bloody great. I do wonder if the film was constructed around the song choices more than the story, if Wright had the germ of an idea based on certain tunes and said “I want to make a film and I want to include this music. Now, how am I going to achieve this? Could be tricky and may need some thought so perhaps I’ll just do something completely unheard of like a comedic British zombie movie and see if that inspires me further…”

If this is the truth of it, then thank goodness.

Baby falls in love during the film with a waitress called Debora and he is keen to give up his life of crime to escape with her into something new and less stressful. Doc, though, does not seem to be keen to let him off the hook and so he is commissioned, coerced, committed into doing one last job. You can see that his heart’s not in it and add into the mix Jamie Foxx’s psychotic robber with his tribute to Eddie Murphy’s early stand-up wardrobe choices and you know that there are going to be some hard, possibly even murderous decisions to be made by our young hero that may not sit easily with us as an audience.

Debora and Baby

Luckily, the bad guys are awful human beings and Baby is not, showing that he has compassion in his relationship with his foster father who is a deaf invalid and in the way that he warns people subtly that maybe they’d be better off not going into the post office just then and should postpone their stamp purchase by a simple shake of his head.

There are comparisons to be made here, most notably with Reservoir Dogs, the stylishly violent Quentin Tarantino film where music is also used to full effect, adding an extra something to the movie that makes it memorable, slick, polished. I think that the use of music that you have heard on the radio or that you may even have in your collection adds to the film’s presence and makes it resonate with you more personally, more so than a movie music score which has been composed specially.

He’s a controversial figure, I know, due to scandal in his personal life, but I think Kevin Spacey is an excellent actor. I remember seeing him in a comedy called The Ref many years ago with Dennis Leary, before he really became famous, and being impressed with him in that. Whatever you think of him, you can never fail to remember him in Seven and The Usual Suspects, both of his performances being remarkable.

Kevin Spacey as Doc with Edgar Wright

The character that he plays in this film, Doc, is difficult to read as he seems to be a ruthless organiser of crime who takes no nonsense and to whom it would be wise for you to pay a LOT of respect. Yet, there is a sense that he thinks fondly of Baby and this is shown in the ultimate magnanimous gesture that he makes towards the end of the film to enable Baby to try and obtain freedom. This was a surprise to me and I do like to be surprised by characters especially when it is in a good way.

Ansel Elgort who plays Baby also deserves a mention. He plays the cool kid with the troubled past and the masterful driving skills just right, balancing the kid who allows himself to be forced into driving with the man emergent who wants to escape that life.

So, does Baby extricate himself from this life of crime without injury or punishment? I think that, on the whole, as a movie watcher, you’ll probably be satisfied by the ending. I think that the end credits will satisfy musically too, providing a suitable thematic end to a good film.

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