The Film Debate: Baby Driver (1)

Lewis Thomas 9 July 2017
Image Credit: Movieclips via YouTube


The last time I had as much fun in a cinema as I did while watching Baby Driver, I was more focused on my date than on the film.

I went to Baby Driver alone.

Baby Driver is a potent mash of genres, of styles, and of influences. It is indefinable. On one level, it’s simply a brilliant soundtrack with some pictures attached (and what pictures!), but that underestimates the level of engagement between the film and the soundtrack. Every slide, shot, and scream is set to the beat of the soundtrack, and the sun-drenched world of the film’s Atlanta seems to run in some mysterious parallel universe, where everything runs to the rhythm of a shockingly good selection of music.

In its bright colours, music, and heightened emotional state, it’s like a Disney film with people getting stabbed in the face.

The performances are simple but excellent, with Jamie Foxx’s Bats serving up a healthy dose of madness to the film and Kevin Spacey’s Doc (a criminal mastermind and mentor to Baby) shifting between chilling menace and hard-nosed sentimentality in the blink of an eye. As the title character, Ansel Elgort serves up a performance which will be remembered as his breakout role.  After some doe-eyed and workmanlike performances in the sort of teen dramas your 13 year old cousin goes to, he has transformed into an actor with both the chops to pull off a serious role and the knowing wit to demonstrate that he’s not taking it all too seriously- expect great things of this man. Jon Hamm is excellent- as always- with a nod from the scriptwriters to his Mad Mendays which, if you spot it, will almost certainly raise an eyebrow and a giggle.

It’s references like this which make Baby Driversomething more than an identikit piece of summer action. Its soundtrack is excellent, and its direction is certain to be rewarded come awards season. But its real charm lies in the little touches- the synchronisation of power slides to a beat; a Pixar reference; the fact that two minor characters are playing themselves. None of this is really necessary to make an action film, but it elevates Baby Driver to something more. It watches like a film Wright wanted to make for a while which, when he had the chance to make it, he tinkered with until instead of a good film, he had a piece of pure cinematic joy.

Baby Driver is funny. It’s nuanced. It’s got a great soundtrack. And you need to go and see it.