Netflix UK film review: Baby Driver
Ivan Radford | On 30, Dec 2017
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm
Watch Baby Driver online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
“All you need is one killer track”, proclaims the poster for Baby Driver, right alongside the name of its writer and director, Edgar Wright. Made hot on the heels of his experience with Marvel’s Ant-Man, this thriller feels defiantly his, built from the tyres up to be 100 per cent Edgar. It’s something he proves immediately with a gorgeously executed opening sequence, which sees a heist carried out with every step perfectly matching the beats in the background. By the time Baby (Elgort) starts drumming on the getaway vehicle to pass the time until his cohorts return, you’ll be hooked.
The music is the key to Baby Driver’s hypnotic appeal: Edgar Wright, who has his own fair share of impeccably choreographed music videos, is a master at matching tunes to pictures. The script included all the tracks used from the beginning, while the actors wore earpieces playing the songs on set, so they could move in time with the rhythm; taking Quentin Tarantino’s and James Gunn’s jukebox musical approach to a whole new level, it’s an astonishing display of an auteur at work, more musical than motoring thriller and all the better for it. Combined with Wright’s signature quick cuts and slick camerawork, the resulting car chases pop with energy like the best Broadway productions around. The action set pieces, meanwhile, are like no shootouts you’ve ever seen before, as Wright sets a new bar for all gunplay and vehicular tomfoolery on screen from now on.
Surface is all well and good, but a car needs substance for its engine to run, and it’s here that Baby Driver is sometimes lacking in fuel. The premise of the film smartly plugs its style into its soul: Baby (yes, that’s our driver’s name) has tinnitus, which means he needs to listen to music to drown out the constant ringing in his ears. From the moment he hits play, our ears hear what he does, and Ansel Elgort is perfectly at home in the lead role of our twirling hero: he doesn’t walk across the screen; he dances. He’s part Fred Astaire, part Eric Morecambe, as he makes breakfast for Joseph (CJ Jones), his foster father – a caring relationship that’s made even more poignant by the fact that he is deaf.
So where do the heists come in? That’s because he stole the car of Doc (Kevin Spacey) years ago, and has been working for the gangster as a getaway driver ever since to pay off the debt. That brings him into contact with Jon Bernthal’s brooding Griff,
Buddy (Jon Hamm), a former Wall Street guy, and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), his lover-in-crime. Jamie Foxx’s sidekick, Bats, is clearly having fun as the gang’s most unhinged member, but he makes less of an impression than Hamm and Gonzalez’s duo. Their bond (and Hamm’s reckless, die-hard determination) is so convincing, in fact, that it only highlights the lack of depth to Baby’s own love interest, Debora. Lily James plays the waitress dating Baby with a real spark and a candy floss charm that fits the movie’s fizzy tone, but there’s little to her beyond being Baby’s object of desire. Wright strives to tie her into the overall tapestry through some nifty tape remixes of recorded conversations, but there’s no agency to make her really matter.
The result leaves our stunning cruiser feeling disappointingly hollow, as it shifts gear from car chases to romance, and ends up drifting on empty. But in every other department, Baby Driver shines with razzle-dazzle enthusiasm and excites with its innovation. Original and never less than entertaining, when it comes to a sheer display of thrilling craft, one killer track really is all Wright needs.
Baby Driver is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.