Baby Driver

Many people have been effusive with their praise for this new high-octane musical drama from Edgar Wright, and it’s not hard to see why it appeals: there are several sequences in Baby Driver – particularly near the beginning – that are incredibly enjoyable, marrying sound and vision in a way that makes you want to stand up and applaud the creativity, planning and technical expertise while the damn thing’s still playing. Those sequences are reason enough to recommend this film, about a young, tinnitus-suffering getaway driver (‘Baby’, Ansel Elgort) paying off a debt to a criminal mastermind (‘Doc’, Kevin Spacey). Sadly, though, after an initial rush the effects of several of Wright’s decisions begin to irritate, or at least withdraw some of that earlier goodwill. First of all the characters here are a fairly weakly-drawn bunch, though no-one suffers quite as badly as fantasy diner waitress Debora (Lily James), who apparently has no friends, family or life outside of work when Baby shows up with promises to turn her road trip dreams into reality. Wright has deliberately opted for a cartoonish, insult-trading bunch of thieves in Doc’s gang, which is fine, but unfortunately certain nastier acts that subsequently take place don’t feel earned, and though the director tries to pull off a surprise with regard to the villain of the piece, it simply doesn’t work at all. (One character in particular has an arc so staggeringly unbelievable it comes close to undoing all of Wright’s good work up to that point.) The writer-director has cited Walter Hill’s The Driver as a key influence, and there’s also plenty of Tony Scott’s True Romance in there too, in terms of the film’s simple central love story and the way in which we’re asked to turn a blind eye to (or accept) any of the violent acts committed by Baby or Debora. Yet the relationship never feels like anything other than a pastiche of Tarantino’s writing, and I’d given up hope long before the awful montage that concludes the affair at the end. At times, though, Baby Driver‘s a hell of a lot of fun, with a pulsating soundtrack and terrificly showy editing by Wright regular Paul Machliss. (***)