With a living soundtrack and slick choreographed action, Baby Driver is a much better movie than it’s silly name would suggest. It’s been one of the most refreshing, enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.
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Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey). The movie opens with him pulling a job with a crew of three other people: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Griff (Jon Bernthal). While Baby jams out to the track “Bellbottoms” by Jon Specner Blues Explosion, the crew robs a bank. They run back to the car and Baby puts on a display of evasive driving that shocks and delights his cohorts before losing the police and getting them to a drop-off vehicle.
Throughout the movie we get to see, along with seeing more of his driving prowess, how he came to be in this line of work.
When he was a child Baby was in an accident that claimed the lives of his parents. The accident damaged Baby’s hearing and left him with tinnitus. Baby is constantly listening to music to drown out the humming. Over the years, he’s amassed a collection of iPods with different curated music. He survived by stealing cars. One day he stole a car from the wrong guy, Doc. The car was loaded with valuable contraband that was ultimately destroyed. When Doc saw the boy’s proficiency, he decided to let him work off his debt as an indentured servant instead of just killing him. It’s been years since then and Doc has come to look upon Baby as a good luck charm. Doc never uses the same crew twice, but he always uses Baby as his driver. After the job that opens the movie, Baby has just one more to go before he settles his debt with Doc.
Baby lives with a deaf old man named Joseph (CJ Jones), who acts as a surrogate father to Baby. He keeps the money he gets from Doc hidden under the floorboards of Joe’s apartment. Joe knows that Baby is misxed up in shady business and tries to convince him to get out of it, but Baby keeps assuring him that everything’s okay.
After the job, Baby goes to Bo’s Diner, where his mother used to work. There, he meets a waitress named Debora (Lily James). She catches his attention when he notices her singing “B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas. Baby and Debora develop feelings for each other even though Baby keeps her in the dark about what he does for a job. Baby’s plan is to get out and drive off into the sunset with Deborah.
Things get a little harry when the crew for the last job turns out to be less than reliable. The crew is led by Bats (Jamie Foxx), who’s got a bit of a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. The job starts bad and gets worse when an off duty marine sees the heist and takes it upon himself to chase the robbers. On top of that, one of the crew members kills a security guard. Despite all that, Baby manages to get them out in one piece and, after disposing of a dead body, walks away believing that he’s free.
Of course, things are never that simple. Doc plans to rob the Post Office and he needs Baby to make it work. Going against his M.O., Doc decides to assemble the rest of the crew out of people he’s worked with before: Darling, Buddy and Bats. Realizing that Doc isn’t going to let him go, Baby plans to run off with Debora in the night. Doc sends the crew to meet with an arms dealer. Baby plans to escape after the meeting.
That plan gets ruined when Bats starts a gun fight with Doc’s contact because he realizes that the contact’s a cop. Doc later reveals that they were crooked cops that were on his payroll. Because of the fight, the crew has to go into lockdown and Doc wants to scratch the job. Baby ends up convincing them to go through with it. Doc reluctantly agrees.
The next day, the crew heads out to rob the Post Office. Once they start the getaway phase, Baby betrays the crew resulting in Bats and Darling ending up dead. Buddy turns out to be quite a bit harder to kill. With the police after both of them, Buddy stalks Baby as he tries to escape with Deborah. After a crazy chase, Baby is finally able to kill Buddy, but he gets arrested in the process. Buddy also manages to severely damage Baby’s hearing before he dies. Buddy wanted to take away what Baby loved the most, his music and his girl.
The movie ends with Baby serving his time in prison. With Joe, Deborah and people Baby helped along the way acting as character witnesses, Baby’s able to get out in less than 5 years. During that time he recovers his hearing and corresponds with Deborah. When he does get out Deborah is at the gates waiting for him, ready to hit the road.
- Baby isn’t Baby’s real name, it’s Miles. As part of Doc’s meticulous planning, no one uses their real names. That’s the reason behind the ridiculous simplicity of everyone’s names.
- The viewer hears the movie through Baby’s ears. The first clue to this is a strange humming sound that starts the movie. The humming is what Baby hears without his music, thanks to the tinnitus.
- Along with constantly listening to music, Baby also makes recordings of people around him. He uses the recordings to mix his own custom music. Maybe not the best idea when the people around you are constantly talking about planning and committing heists.
- This movie has an extensive soundtrack, even beyond what’s listed in the credits. Tunefind has a pretty comprehensive listing off all the music used.
What did I think?
Baby Driver is stylish, fun and refreshing. Ansel Elgort’s performance in this movie is outstanding from start to finish. I loved Jon Hamm as a bad guy and his oversexed, Pretty Woman / Bonnie and Clyde shtick with Eiza Gonzales. Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey are also great in their roles. Everyone is a little over the top, but that’s what the movie requires. This isn’t a movie that’s meant to make you contemplate the depths of the characters. It’s meant to pull you into the flow and rhythm of the action and take you along for the ride; and it’s an incredibly fun ride.
It’s hard to describe just how much of a part of this movie the music is without seeing it. The way that the characters and the action move along with the eclectic tracks is so fluid that it almost seems accidental at times. Once you realize how the sound is playing in with everything, it’s amazing just how much care must’ve gone into making all of this sync up. The music is so important to this movie, that it could almost be considered a character. What makes it even better is that it’s a music lover’s soundtrack, full of carefully curated tracks picked out for different occasions.
Aside from the music, the action itself is pretty slick. It’s mostly driving and shooting, not a lot in the way of hand-to-hand and that’s not a bad thing. Leaving the action to the machines means that everyone can get in on the action. Even Kevin Spacey gets in on the action at one point. The action is done with a lot of stunts and quick cuts, but it’s pretty impressive to get such a high-octane movie for a movie with a budget under $40 million.
This movie is clearly Edgar Wright’s baby. It takes someone with a pretty specific vision to pull off a movie like this. There is a lot about this movie that I feel like it’s hard to describe in text. To a certain extent, I don’t want to describe it. A lot of the sequences in the movie should be experienced with no preconceptions in order to get the full effect. So, I’ll stop trying to type about this movie and just say that I think this is one of the best movies of the year. It’s unique flare gives me the same feeling as movies like Deadpool, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Blue Brothers, and The Italian Job. Just like those movies, I don’t know if it’s destined to win awards, but it is destined to be on people’s lists of favorite movies.
Baby Driver (2017)
- Choreographs the entire movie to music in a way that comes off as slick instead of cheesy
- Jon Hamm is actually great as a bad guy
- great balance of fast passed and quick thinking action
- There's so much going on that things can be asy to miss