“Baby Driver” never gasses out
By Clark Gudas
Before “Baby Driver” played, director Edgar Wright appeared on the theater screen.
“Thank you for coming to enjoy the movie the way it was intended,” Wright said. “As large and as loud as possible.”
From the director of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” is the high-octane crime thriller “Baby Driver.”
The story follows Baby — played by Ansel Elgort— as he drives the getaway car for dangerous heists during the day and looks after his deaf caretaker (CJ Jones) at night. Reserved and eccentric, he says little and listens to his iPod when driving to relax and give him an edge behind the wheel.
“Baby Driver” drifts between those large and loud qualities with original writing and confident footing.
Story and character are just as central to the movie as the action sequences. Baby’s relationships dissolve as he works with mentally unhinged criminals such as the arrogant, trigger-happy Bats (Jamie Foxx) and their manipulative leader Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby falls in love with a local waitress, Deborah (Lily James) and has to reconcile with these colliding characters.
The writing is strong, and each character’s personal motivations collide as stakes shoot higher and swerve the story in unexpected directions.
Music and sound are crucial to the plot. Featuring classic rock artists such as Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys and Queen, the music Baby listens to on heists delivers fun, adrenaline-fueling music to amplify the tension.
Where the movie really shines is in its sound design. The low hum in Baby’s ear, which he and the audience can only hear when he isn’t focused on his music, claws at his sanity and makes for creative characterization.
Another particular sound concept is how actions falls in beat with whatever song is playing in the background, whether shooting enemies, opening doors or flipping through stacks of hundred dollar bills. After a shootout aligns perfectly to the beat of The Champs’ “Tequila,” an explosion lands on the last note. It keeps the action from becoming tedious or stale.
The movie has no qualms with injecting moments of comedy and lightheartedness into it’s otherwise serious plot. Baby is carefree and often plays air guitar, drums on the steering wheel and dances while his team robs a bank. The writing even has the confidence to throw jokes in the midst of serious moments.
When staking out a heist with Baby, a boy sizes up the cashier. “Just say ‘boo’ and she’ll give you the big bills first,” the boy said.
These moments of light-hearted fun keep the drama from becoming exhausting.
Scenery shifts often. The movie spends time in murky, midnight sweat shops and sun-lit afternoons. The lighting and dynamic sets allow for moments of recuperation before diving back into the action.
While car chases in “Baby Driver” don’t offer anything unordinary to action movies, the stunts are still exciting. Whether driving on sloped walls, jumping over moving cars or just trashing car after car, chases and gunfights bring an almost “Mad Max” level of vehicular rampage.
Overall, “Baby Driver” delivers story, action and thrills, each quality just as compelling a reason to watch as the others.
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