About a month ago, the company I work for got an invite to a special preview screening of a film called Baby Driver. I’d never heard of it, not seen a trailer, didn’t know it existed until this invitation arrived in my inbox, and tbh, the poster looked bleh so I didn’t rush to check it out. Then I saw the name Edgar Wright. Made huge by his directorial ties to Simon Pegg/Nick Frost classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (plus others but these are the best), Wright has established himself as man who creates fun, frenetic and just plain cool shit for the big screen. After that, I was all about whatever the fuck Baby Driver was.
The trailer was interesting but I only watched half of it. At the time I reasoned it was because I knew I wanted to see it no matter what the rest looked like and wanted to avoid spoilers. Here are the basics (or skip to teaser below): Ansel Elgort (ugh) plays a kid named Baby (yep) who’s a driver-for-hire for underworld Frank Underwood, with some sort of connection to music. Cinderella plays a small-town girl working in a diner who finds Baby’s bizarre charm a winner, but of course, when a job goes awry, Baby might not get the chance to sweep her off her feet. Gosh darn.
I replied with a firm yes to the invite and conned my workwife into a date. Screening day arrives, and we’re sent up to the fancy cinemas. The ones where the chairs are so big you’re at least 60m from your nearest neighbour, and the volume’s so loud you’ll come out with tinnitus. But before we could go in, a bunch of tall, gruff men demanded our phones be handed over in an effort to curb pirating or recording of any kind. This is a wildly annoying thing that I’ve only ever had to do once before, for a film that was being lauded as the frontrunner of the 2016 Oscars. This is not that kind of film, as I was soon to learn.
Before the show kicked off, a guy from Sony danced around with a microphone, and told us how FUCKING PRIVILEGED we all were to be there because it was the second EVER SCREENING on the whole planet of Baby Driver, which is why NO ONE CAN HAVE THEIR PHONE BECAUSE ~STRICT EMBARGO~ COULD NOT BE BROKEN, and in fact no one was even allowed to review the film until three days before it’s release date or some shit. IDK I was too busy rolling my eyes at the entire fiasco – do you want me to give your potentially ridiculous movie any promo at all? Because you really make me not want to, Sony Guy (but also I’m writing this review, mostly so I can bitch about how terrible their requests to not chat about this film were).
So. There are two main takeaways from this film.
Number one: Ansel Elgort is not a leading man. He just isn’t. I’m sorry. No. I find it hard to warm to him in practically every role he’s been in, and he is, without a doubt, 100%, not an actor who can hold up a film (so thank fuck for the rest of the cast). Which then of course means that a film led by him is invariably made weaker for it. You know who should have been in this role? Miles Teller. Miles Teller would have crushed this fucking thing and tbh I’m actually really annoyed he wasn’t in it. Someone please tell me he was at least considered for the role..!?
Number two: It is vital that you go into this film understanding who Edgar Wright is and the kind of films he makes; i.e. serious parodies. Hot Fuzz was an homage AND pisstake of crime thrillers. Shaun of the Dead of zombie films. The World’s End of… well… The Hangover. Baby Driver is basically the film you get if you mash Drive and La La Land up and that should make people v happy, but I’m still unsure. I need to see it again, because I only REALISED this necessary perspective at the beginning of the third act. SO my advice will help you not be massively perplexed about the positioning of the film – ya welcome.
Other things I liked about this film: The motherfucking score. Holy SHIT. The fact that movement throughout the entire film was in at least some small way choreographed to the score underneath took my breath away. There’s one particular scene where Ansel makes toast and my heart exploded over the flow of it. Just. Truly a beautiful piece of artistry there.
I also enjoyed the relationships between characters – particularly that of Baby and Joe. Completely believable and moving, and in complete contrast to how I felt about the thing with Deborah/Cinderella. IDK man. Call me cynical (despite my desperate romanticism) but I just felt like there was something vaguely creeptacular about how all of that came about? I think a second viewing will help me clear this up. I also feel weird about Jamie Foxx being an almost-stereotypical thug, but then I think to myself that maybe the intention is to highlight how shit that is to do in films nowadays? I am…. not sure.
As is standard with a Wright film there is grizzzzzzzzzzly death involved and oh my GOD does he ever go for it. The car chases are phenomenally choreographed, and it really is an extraordinary action film. But just make sure you don’t watch it as an actual action film, got it?
On the whole, I came away from this movie unsure how I felt. Having realised at the beginning of the final act that I needed to be watching through the Wright Lens, rather than just as a person watching a film and absorbing it as it was, I really did miss the intention of the first two acts and subsequently spent quite a bit of time confused. I was also – very obviously – completely pissed off about the phone debacle (ps we spent 25 minutes in line to get them back after the film) so my mood may have affected my read of this. When it’s officially released next week, I’ll have a better idea of whether this was up there with the Cornetto films, or just… another caper comedy with Ed’s name on it.