SPOILER WARNING: This review will discuss the plot and ending of Baby Driver in great detail.
In a Summer packed with blockbuster sequels, reboots and rehashes, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has risen as a fresh and original take on heist films and action thrillers. With a star-studded cast and a writer/director known for his distinct visual style, Baby Driver is a promising pitch to those craving a fun Summertime action movie. This film fully delivers, nailing action, humor and charm, all delivered with a great soundtrack.
This film fully delivers, nailing action, humor and charm, all delivered with a great soundtrack.
The basis of Baby Driver’s story is a familiar concept. The main character, Baby, is a freakishly-talented wheelman who as a child survived a traumatic car accident that killed his parents. He stumbles into the criminal world and is forced to use his driving skills to pay off his powerful boss, Doc, and earn money to care for his deaf stepfather. Continuing the crime-thriller trope, Baby reassures his adoptive father that he’s not getting in too deep and that he’s taking on one last job, then he’s done. When he completes this job and tries to quit, his boss comes in right on cue and reminds him that his loved ones will die if he doesn’t keep carrying out these heists.
Like any major action movie, the main plot is not meant as the the selling point of the film. The storyline is delivered in a manner that’s self-aware, and it is mainly used to introduce characters and create interactions between them. That being said, there were some questionable and surprising choices made in the final act of the film. I use these terms, rather than “wrong” or “flawed”, because writer/director Edgar Wright took a path that was completely different than the obvious route, which surprised me but also left me wondering if it was the right call.
In the final heist, Baby sabotages the mission, killing Bats, Jamie Foxx’s prodding, trigger happy character that had been serving as the main antagonist up to this point. This felt like a somewhat-decent closing to his character arc until Buddy and Darling emerged, still alive, and became antagonists themselves, leaving Bats’ death feeling strange and out of place. When Darling is gunned down by the police, it seemed likely and logical that Buddy would go out in a firefight against the police to avenge her, but he survived instead. When it would’ve made sense to have Doc as the main villain in the last act, using his power and influence to track Baby down as he had promised earlier, there was yet another strange twist. After Baby had betrayed him, sabotaged his plan, and gotten his crew members killed, Doc instead decides not to hunt him, but to help him instead. Why? In the name of young love . . . I guess.
So this leaves us with the first true villain (Bats) killed in an abrupt and unsatisfying manner, the most powerful and seemingly vengeful character (Doc) serving as an ally after making an uncharacteristic decision, and the most likable crew member (Buddy) serving as the main villain and killing Doc with only a few seconds of interaction. This direction, combined with Baby’s strange and unnecessary arrest, trial and jail scenes at the movie’s climax instead of just him driving away with his girlfriend, Debora, shook my confidence in the storytelling a bit.
These are all unorthodox choices that didn’t necessarily break the movie, and the performances of each character carried the strange plot forward nonetheless, but these decisions did stand out and make this period of the film feel a bit out of left field. My friend demonstrated my feelings best when he said to me, “All hell broke loose after the last heist. The second he crashed the car, shit got real weird and stopped making sense.” It makes me wonder if that was how Wright wanted it to unfold all along, or if it was simply a decision made to keep the story from being too formulaic. Despite my problems with this series of events, the characters and the charm of the effects were so strong that I enjoyed the film regardless.
Other than the moments that I highlighted earlier, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm easily had the best performances of the film and kept me captivated and entertained throughout the whole movie. This was my first experience with Elgort, but he turned me into a fan with his comical delivery, relatability, and intensity. Furthermore, he had fun and quirky chemistry with lead actress Lily James’ Debora, and made me want them to end up together.
Kevin Spacey, despite the strange ending his character arc took, was phenomenal at being a dryly funny, calculating, dangerous crime boss whose reach of influence seemed endless. The personality that he brought to his character made the tried-and-true action movie tropes enjoyable and added an extra level of intensity to each heist.
Even with my complaints earlier, Jon Hamm was fantastic as both a likeable, sex-crazed crew member and as a ruthless villain. His relationship with Darling was ridiculous but charming, and his touching moment reaching out to Baby and bonding with him over music really attached me to his character. Though more shallow and one-dimensional, his villain persona was just as entertaining, and his reintroduction at the diner was one of my favorite scenes. Because of the depth and attachment of his character, his eventual demise stood out as the only satisfying death in the whole film.
Jon Hamm was fantastic as both a likeable, sex-crazed crew member and as a ruthless villain.
In between these enjoyable character interactions was the selling point of the film: badass heart-racing action. This movie was bursting with insane driving stunts, thrilling car chases, and a collection of shootouts. It’s rare these days for a movie to have fresh and innovative car action, especially with the Fast and Furious franchise constantly raising the bar for ridiculous stunts involving cars and the occasional flying tank. However, this film had Edgar Wright’s charm and flair to help elevate it above the rest. The camera cuts and effects were reminiscent of favorites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but Baby Driver had a unique element that sets it apart from other action and crime thrillers.
Baby Driver‘s obsession over sound design is unrivaled. While music is one of the movie’s major themes from the start, I had no idea that I’d witness such attention to detail and mastery of syncing action with music. Every step, gesture, stunt, and gunshot was synced flawlessly with the stellar soundtrack. There was a mix of recognizable classic rock songs and some deeper cuts that kept the tone shifting and lively, and brought the film to life. Much like the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the soundtrack reinforces the action and comedy of the film to new heights and greatly enhances the experience. I can’t wait to rewatch this movie just to see how each and every moment syncs up so perfectly.
Baby Driver's obsession over sound design is unrivaled. . . . I can’t wait to rewatch this movie just to see how each and every moment syncs up so perfectly.
Overall, this was an enjoyable action thriller with great performances and stunning camerawork. While a few questionable character arcs and leaps in logic somewhat tarnish the story, the true promise of this film lies in the dazzling, edge-of-your-seat action and the masterful command of sound. With its unique style and phenomenal cast, Baby Driver is a fun and exceptional film that leaves a lasting impression. If you enter with the correct expectations and pay close attention to the fine details of this movie, it’ll be difficult not to enjoy it.