Released: July 2017
The first scene of Baby Driver is both representative and wholly misleading. It’s a fun, action packed little set piece, introducing Baby and his quirks quickly, and immersing you in a hyper-stylised, cliched world. There’s a heist, air drumming, saturated colours and an exciting car chase. What promise for the rest of the film! But what would have been great as an over-the-top single scene starter doesn’t change for the rest of the film and quickly becomes boring.
Wright’s trademark snappy, close-up shots to highlight action work well in say Shaun of the Dead, where often it’s focused on a lack of action, such as making a cup of tea, but fail when depicting actual action- you feel cut away from what is happening, and it actually slows down the pacing and serves only to remind you it’s just a film you’re watching. Having managed to wright a good-enough excuse for there being in-film music playing all the time has led him to just throw every song in the mix in the hope that a few scenes will match well enough to be iconic.
The plot is derisively thin and predictable. There’s a good-guy-at-heart, forced to do bad things. There are innocent people he cares about- do you think they might get used as leverage? He thinks he’s out of the game, but his boss has other ideas. It’s as though Wright has forgotten that to admirably pay homage to such tropes, you need to work on them, subvert them a little. Just repeating them leaves your work looking weak, derivative, and 30 years out of date.
The cast do their best with the material given to them, but even Kevin Spacey fails to convince with his character’s complete personality change in the last ten minutes of the film, and Jamie Foxx seems to have decided to over compensate for his role’s lack of depth with a heap of surface tics. Baby himself is a paper-doll of good intentions, and Ansel Elgort does not have the charisma required to bring him to life. Jon Hamm’s Buddy is by far the best character in the film, and Hamm does an admirable job giving him depth. This sadly serves to not only highlight the weaknesses of everyone else, but also to make me wish I was watching a Buddy and Darling film instead.
Baby is just such a weak lead character, offering nothing we haven’t seen before, that it’s hard to care about any of the things he is doing. Part of what makes the Cornetto Trilogy great is Wright’s complete knowledge of both the films he is referencing and using, and the characters and locations the film is set in. He knows small English towns, and the people who populate them, inside out. This means his scripts are full, more nuanced than it initially appears and believable. In Baby Driver he may know his films, but I don’t feel like he has any idea about his characters or the location, and that leaves just his stylistic nods to other directors, which is not enough to carry this film to anything like a satisfying conclusion.