If La La Land was a heist movie, it would be called Baby Driver .
Ansel Elgort of the Divergent series (sidebar, don’t you hate it when a whole series of films is just named after the first movie?) stars as one half of the title. He is “Baby.” Yep, his name is “Baby.” Yep, it’s weird, but it’s also kinda cool. His job is the “driver” – or getaway man – in a series of heists. So, I suppose he is actually all of the title.
Heist movies are usually a good time. They always start with a tense heist that wows the audience with the skills of the participants. Then there’s a second heist that creates some conflict between a few characters. Then there’s the one big final score that’s too good to be true where someone gets greedy, someone gets jealous, or someone gets stupid. It’s been done about a thousand times with 1995’s Heat and the underrated Entrapment from 1999 being my favorites. Baby Driver is exactly this formula. What makes it different than the rest? Style, my friends. This movie has a style that is somewhat unique in that everything Baby does in the film is basically set to his own personal soundtrack. This has appeared to wow film enthusiasts and millennials alike.
Baby, clad always with his earbuds, uses the music in his life to keep the time as he does everything from go get coffee to drive like a maniac. The latter being what he does best. He works as the almost idiot-savant driver for Kevin Spacey’s gang of ne’er-do-wells (that include Jon Hamm and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx), and he can race his way out of any precarious situation. It’s ridiculous and silly at times, but the music distracts everyone from noticing. I said that the style made this film different. I didn’t say that the style made this film good.
Heist movies, as described above, wow audiences in general – and me in particular – because they take you inside the elusive world of thievery and make us feel like we could be criminals too if we were just THIS much smarter. It’s a beautiful thing. Baby Driver does not actually show you any of the heisting. The entire premise of the film is based on the fact that Baby is a good getaway driver. There are a million car stunts in the film that, although extremely impressive to the viewer, aren’t at all realistic – taking me as a viewer out of the film. I cannot be wowed by twenty or thirty minutes of Tokyo drifting through downtown Atlanta because I know it’s impossible. Have you ever driven in Atlanta?
The conflict between characters as part of heist #2 in the formula is not all that bad. There are some decent tense moments on screen between Hamm, Foxx, Elgort, and Baby’s girlfriend in the film – played by the adorable Lily James. Those move the plot along pretty well until the end when (no spoilers) the unbelievability of the film turns up to eleven, and we have stunts and shootouts for stunts and shootouts’ sake. By the time the resolution came, I was so ready for the film to be over that I didn’t even care who came out on top.
The ending of the film also left me a little baffled. It started when one of the characters, with fewer than 5 minutes left in the film, reveals Baby’s real name. I was, and continue to be, angry about this. It was the ultimate unnecessary cherry on top of this over-the-top production that just ruined the whole experience. Can’t I just let a movie entertain me and not be so picky, you may ask? Sure. I can overlook silly and unbelievable if it fits within the confines of the story before me. Baby Driver was a decent popcorn flick that I was enjoying until the style got old and backfired. And there was no reason whatsoever to tell us what his name is. None.
Overall, this movie is probably a 6 out of 10. Elgort shines in his acting (and dancing) abilities, and I walked away a big fan of his. I look forward to seeing more from him. Kevin Spacey plays Kevin Spacey once again, so maybe he’ll win another Oscar for this. Jamie Foxx makes an Oscar joke in the film, which is cute because he’s actually won one. That guy can really do no wrong, and he is as unlikable in his role here as he was good at being Ray Charles. Jon Hamm is wonderful too. THAT guy can do no wrong, either – despite having a character with way too much screen time in this movie. As for writer and director Edgar Wright, best known probably for Shaun of the Dead and the nerd-friendly Scott Pilgrim, I feel like he has stepped up to showing the world he can make an adult film (well, you know) worthy of some recognition. The cinematography and editing in Driver are superb, as is the sound mixing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film get some love come awards season. The fan-friendly action, bombastic soundtrack, and impressive box office returns are the kinds of things voters like to call a Best Picture nominee. I hope not, but until I get a vote, just pass the popcorn.