Baby Driver 01.07.17
The reviews have been effusive (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), yet what to make of a film whose ending seems to have been directed by Roland Emmerich? But I'm getting ahead of myself, especially when there's the beginning to discuss, with its similarity to Spiderman 3.
Baby Driver has, let's be clear, received five-star reviews from journals as reputable as The Guardian. There is much, in fact, that is brilliant about this slick and streetwise film, of a youthful twenty-something who acts as the getaway driver for a crime kingpin. His talent at the wheel is near supernatural, a Leon-like figure affected and repressed by a childhood trauma who seems unable to connect with people – is indeed, only himself when wired up to the music of his Apple iplayer or when driving the car. Our introduction to him is only slightly hampered at the outset in a street-walking scene where the driver jive-walks to the music on his iplayer, all a bit too smooth, and I thought about Toby Maguire and that scene that helped kill Spiderman 3.
Regardless, the protagonist who starts out as a socially awkward post-teen turns into something else, most strikingly when he falls in love with a likeable waitress. The romantic exchanges are tender and winning, though they are also sharply delivered, unerringly so for a figure who seemed previously so unable to articulate himself almost at all. I found this shift in gears, from driver-savant to precocious Romeo, unconvincing.
Still, the love story is likeable and it draws you in. What ruins this film is the final quarter with the heist gone wrong, when one of the bank robbers decides to dedicate himself to revenge against the driver. How many times does the robber get shot? Twice, perhaps? Three times? And yet he comes back every time to avenge himself; at one point, in a multi-story carpark, the young driver's plan has the robber's car smashed over the edge to crash several stories below. The driver goes to view the wreckage below. Moments later, a gun is cocked at his head. How did the gun-shot robber extricate himself from the falling car, then reappear behind the young driver within the broad open space of a car park without being seen? This was cartoon violence, of non-stop 'twists' where gun shots fail to effectively maim and people keep getting up, to appear again from behind some pillar. Like a battle between immortal superheroes, the death of a vanquished foe becomes meaningless, as you wait for them to re-emerge, until at some point, they finally don't.Baby Driver, then, is a slick action film with brilliant stunts and memorable moments, a sandwich with a tremendous filling held together by shitty bread either side. The established cast, with Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Mad Men's Jon Hamm bring intensity and charisma, while the romance between Ansel Elgort and Lily James is cute to behold. It feels, though, like a film ruined by Hollywood committee, which tries to squeeze in too many final moments of a nemesis returned from the dead, while the logic of a psychologically troubled boy-genius who can suddenly switch to cool dialogue is just a bit too much coolness. Watch this film and be entertained, it will certainly do that, but it doesn't hold together as anything more.