Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review of BABY DRIVER: Gung-ho Getaways

July 25, 2017

Tall, blond, baby-faced young actor Ansel Elgort first hit the big screen in 2013 with a supporting role in the remake of "Carrie." This was followed by a role in the"Divergent" trilogy, which kept busy from 2014-2016. By his third role, he was already playing the co-lead in "The Fault in Our Stars" (2014). To continue his rise, this year, he gets to play a title role in "Baby Driver". Admittedly, because he looked bland and awkward, I did not expect his career to flourish so fast.

Baby worked as a getaway driver for a gang of crooks led by Doc in Atlanta, Georgia. Because he suffered from severe tinnitus because of a tragic childhood accident, he constantly wore earphones to listen to his music, but this made the thieves who worked with him feel uncomfortable. Just when he completed his last job for Doc to repay a big debt, Baby meets and befriends Debora, a lovely girl who worked at the diner. However, Doc had plans for Baby to drive for him for one last big heist.

Here in "Baby Driver," the innate awkwardness of Elgort played a big factor to charm the audience to side with him and to root for him as Baby. His traumatic past and innocent face made him a special child for us to care for, albeit all grown-up now. He was a natural playing it cute in his romantic scenes with Debora. However, in the bad-ass driving scenes, Elgort was also able to pull them off convincingly, as unbelievable as those incredibly fast and clever car stunts looked.

Kevin Spacey can play gangsters like Doc like second nature. And so can Jamie Foxx play wacko violent killers like Bats. I remember seeing them do these kinds of roles before. John Hamm is remarkable playing another thief named Buddy. He is best-known for his character Don Draper in the long-running Emmy-winning TV series "Mad Men", a show I had never watched despite it running from 2007-2015. Buddy's partner-in-life and in-crime is Darling, played by sexy Eiza González. It was surprising to see musicians like Flea and Paul Williams have some screen time playing criminals.

The vivacious friendly diner waitress Debora is played by Lily James, whom I first knew as "Cinderella" in the Disney live action version (2015). This lead role was followed by another lead role as Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (2016). I thought her chemistry with Elgort was delightful, and the two worked very well together as a pair.

From the get go, we immediately follow an amazing car chase sequence to the tune of "Bellbottoms" (by John Spencer Blues Explosion) that set the adrenaline-pumped pace for the whole film. All the car sounds and action melded perfectly with the rock beat of the song. Just as impressive was continuous tracking shot of Baby buying coffee to the tune of "Harlem Shuffle" (by Bob and Earl) that played over the opening credits. 

Music is a key element throughout the whole film, and the soundtrack from Baby's iPod collection was loud and dope, featuring acts as diverse as Beach Boys, T. Rex, Beck, Martha and the Vandellas, Barry White and Queen. Driving music was given a whole new dimension and because of the infectious beats led to carefully choreographed driving stunts and even gunfire and foot chases all in time with the rhythm. We are all taken in on its seemingly wild yet actually calculated ride. 

The original version of the song "Easy" by the Commodores was played earlier in the film, but towards the end, a more soulful heart-rending rendition of the same song was done by Sky Ferreira, who also played Baby's mother in the film, which packed a lot of emotion. As a bonus, Simon and Garfunkel's upbeat "Baby Driver" (from which the film's title came) is played over the closing credits.

Writer-director Edgar Wright first gained popularity with his quirky films like "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), "Hot Fuzz" (2007) and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (2013). For "Baby Driver," Wright definitely knew what he was going for and he nailed it. Baby is a well-written character that wins the audience over despite his involvement with crime. With drama, action and comedy skillfully balanced with music, the whole film is very engaging,and entertaining. It had a "Shawshank Redemption" vibe going for it. Despite the violence and mayhem, the film's heart is securely in the right place. 9/10. 

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