Monday, July 3, 2017

Baby Driver Review

We're halfway through Hollywood's summer and sneaking in at the end of June, right before the year's halfway point, is the latest film from director Edgar Wright. I'm not sure what the specific qualifications are to be considered an official huge Edgar Wright fan, but if we were to get into technicalities I may not be eligible. Up until last month I had only ever seen one of his films, that being "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." But in my defense, he's only made four major theatrically released films. Yes, he made a few early films that didn't get much of a release and he worked a lot in TV and other random small film projects, but outside "Scott Pilgrim," his other three films consist of what is referred to as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy: "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End." Now I've been madly in love with "Scott Pilgrim" ever since I saw it in theaters in 2010 and I caught up with the Cornetto trilogy before seeing "Baby Driver" and holy cow are all three of those movies fantastic. So however much time is required to become a huge Edgar Wright fan after seeing all of his films, sign me up on that waiting list because this man is a genius filmmaker with no blemishes on his record up to this point. That continues with "Baby Driver," which is another Edgar Wright masterpiece.

Since box office totals of these four Edgar Wright films lead me to believe that he is a master of the cult classic wherein not enough people have seen these films, let me give you my plug. "Shaun of the Dead" is a zombie movie parody that came out in 2004 when zombie movies where a huge thing. The movie is hilarious, intense, exhilarating and emotional all in one film. It's an absolute blast. Three years later, in 2007, "Hot Fuzz" was released and is one of the most insane buddy cop movies I've seen with so many over-the-top twists and turns that just keep coming and coming. I was laughing so hard for all of the right reasons. In 2010, we have the illustrious "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which is literally a video game movie. Not an adaptation of a video game. The movie itself is a video game. One of the most clever, hilarious and fun movies I've ever watched. And finally we have "The World's End" in 2013, shortly after the huge craze over the "end of the world" in 2012. Another hilarious and awesome film that ingeniously parodies all of the end of the world movies that came our way at that point. Four great films. Yet the highest grossing of the bunch at the U.S. box office was "Scott Pilgrim" with only $31.5 million? Say what? That's practically a crime to humanity.

It's really a shame that none of these movies made much money. Sure, several of them did solid numbers in Edgar's home country of the U.K., but such low grosses makes me sad. Here we cry for more originality in Hollywood, yet when a director like Edgar Wright gives us movies that are the dictionary definition of original, creative and fun, we ignore them? I don't get how that makes any sense. And you wonder why we get so many sequels, remakes, reboots and adaptations. That's all consumers will bother paying for while hypocritically demanding for more original movies that they always choose to skip when they come around. I'm just glad that "Baby Driver" at the moment is NOT suffering the same fate as Wright's previous movies as it's already at around $30 million through its first five days in release, with word of mouth suggesting that it's in for a long, healthy run during this busy summer. It's about dang time that Wright gets love from more people than his home country. This is another unique, fun, crazy film from Wright wherein I loved every second of my movie-going experience. In fact, I had so much fun that I waited a few days for it to settle in before writing this review so that I can comfortably make some bold claims.

The major bold claim that I am going to make right now is that "Baby Driver" is my favorite movie that I've seen in 2017 thus far. With movies such as "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Dunkirk" coming up in just the next three weeks, it's quite possible that this title only lasts for a brief moment, but from the moment the publishing of this review, that is my claim. That's why I had to give this a few days of thought. So with that bold claim out of the way, what is "Baby Driver"? The easy answer to this question is that it's everything. There are so many genres packed into this one film and all of them are perfectly balanced by Edgar Wright so that the final result is one huge, epic film. With so many genres in one movie, the initial watch is almost like drinking from a fire hose, but when you give yourself time to unpack everything and think about what you just watched, you slowly begin to realize how genius this movie is and how many layers there are. Then comes the daunting task of trying to do the movie justice in one short movie review because there is just so much to this. I almost just want to end right here and tell you to go experience this movie for yourself, but I will do my best to try to press forward with this review.

The movie itself centers around a character named Baby, played by Ansel Elgort from "The Fault in Our Stars" fame, who has gone through an accident in his past that caused a ringing in his ears. Because of this, he listens to music to drown out the buzzing and has since gotten himself deep into a hole with a violent, dangerous criminal organization who commit heists and robberies. Baby isn't helping with the robbing part of this. He's the getaway driver. And he's so good at what he does with his driving that he's gotten himself stuck in helping them. His secret to being such a good getaway driver? His music. He syncs his driving to the music he's playing and that's what gives him the energy to make it through each job. Thus as he's listening to this music, we as the audience get the pleasure of seeing these epic chase sequences go down synced to this fantastic music. Thus right off the bat we have a heist film, a car chasing film and a musical. Thus the initial comparison was like a "Fast and Furious" the musical. I'd say combine that with a heist film, but "Fast Five" already got that genre covered, so maybe this movie is similar to a "Fast Five" the musical. And that's only the first portion. The further into the movie we get, the more layers and genres we add.

One genre that we quickly add is a romance film as Baby meets Cinderella herself working at the diner he goes to everyday for certain reasons. And by Cinderella, I of course mean Lily James, who is as beautiful and wonderful as ever in this film. Her and Baby immediately develop a ton of romantic chemistry that is totally not forced at all. It happens quickly, but completely naturally. The second they meet in the diner, you immediately are cheering for them to get together. With Baby being in such a tough position that he doesn't know how to get out of, Lily James gives him the motivation to try. Thus the movie becomes daring enough to combine a sappy chick flick with a guy-targeted action/racing thriller. One might ask if it's possible to combine these two very opposite genres and make it work. Well, Edgar Wright is daring enough to run with it and he managed to make me absolutely love all the guy stuff that I'm suppose to love with this type of movie that felt like a "Fast and Furious" or "Mad Max" film while also making me fully invested in this romance arc because I wanted nothing more than the two of them to have their happily ever after and since this is Edgar Wright and not Nicholas Sparks, I had no idea if I was going to get that.

Yet Ansel Elgort and Lily James aren't the only two characters in this movie worth caring for. We have so many different characters with so many different character arcs all interweaving together in such a way that on paper you might look at it and think this is a disaster waiting to happen because often too many characters with too many different story arcs can blow up in a director's face if not handled correctly. But again, Edgar Wright crafts this to perfection. This is more than just poor little Ansel Elgort trying to escape the evil villains who have done all this wrong. Every character has depth and complexity to him or her. Characters in this movie that I really cared about outside Ansel Elgort and Lily James include characters played by Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Kevin Spacey, CJ Jones and Jamie Foxx. I don't want to say who played what role in the movie or what each character went through to make me care about them because that would dive into plot spoilers. But needless to say, each character has his or her share of flaws and each character has believable motivation behind what he or she does. These elements made each character worth caring about and thus we got no hollow characters on either side.

We do eventually get to the point where it's hero vs. villain in one epic showdown and while I hesitate to even say that, I feel the need to bring this up because in addition to a mashup of genres that shouldn't work combined with so many story arcs that should make the movie over-bloated, that against all odds works beautifully, we also have the perfect hero vs. villain story arc that every superhero movie attempts to pull off while many fail in the process. We have a complex, flawed hero who has made a lot of mistakes fighting against a well-fleshed out villain who is both ominous and scary while also having a whole lot of depth and motivation behind the actions taken. You understand why this villain is doing these things and you are almost tempted to side with this villain, thus making this a lot more than your typical good guy vs. bad guy story. And there are stakes in this movie. In a lot of superhero movies or other blockbusters, you often know that the hero is going to make it out alive, even in times where you are thoroughly enjoying the film. That's not the case here. There are stakes. There are consequences. And if you watched the Cornetto trilogy, you know Edgar Wright isn't afraid of doing exactly what you DON'T expect. In fact, he seems to like that.

I've gone over a lot of details of this film, but despite that, I don't feel I've covered a whole ton of specific details. This movie has a lot of layers to it with several twists and turns that you come to expect from an Edgar Wright film if you're familiar with his work. I've only scratched the surface. But I've said what I wanted to and now it's up to you to go give this movie a shot. It's an absolute beauty. Edgar Wright is a bold, daring filmmaker who is oozing with fun, creative ideas that I feel give life to what is often a super familiar landscape when it comes to Hollywood. Thus if you want to get away from the predictable and boring, come dive into the world of "Baby Driver." We have so many different genres and story arcs going on during this one movie that on paper it may seem like it wouldn't work, but Edgar Wright masterfully crafts this work of art together into what can be called the perfect summer blockbuster that is glued together with Wright's distinct visual and editing style. If you are a fan of Edgar Wright's films and you haven't seen this movie already, make this a top priority. If you are less familiar with Edgar Wright, but you are wanting to see a unique and perfect summer blockbuster, then you also need to make this a priority. I'm giving "Baby Driver" a 10/10.

1 comment:

  1. Baby driver is a masterpiece! I think it's one of edgar wrights best! The only film I love just a bit more is Hot Fuzz.