Baby Driver – the Byron Yee review – spoiler free

Baby Driver poster

So I went to see Baby Driver last night. First off, based on the trailer, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the movie. In fact, I wasn’t that impressed with much of the marketing on this film, but that’s just me.

However, I have great, great respect for Edgar Wright who has directed three comedies that I absolutely love, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. Scott Pilgrim vs the World didn’t quite do it for me.

So before I get into my own highly analytical film snobbery detail, I think this is terrific film. I have my little gripes with the film but they are small compared to everything that is right with it. Highly entertaining. Go see it.

So let’s start with my number one issue. Story. You either have it or you don’t. In many ways, this is a film that we’ve all seen before. But there are enough little things, quirky and curveballs, that elevate the story. But more importantly, it now becomes about executing the story. And that’s where Baby Driver gets everything right.

There is a lot of story going on but the most crucial element is the choice that Baby Driver must make. To get to that point, the main character has to earn the right to make that choice.  Movies fail when that choice is arbitrary. Edgar Wright is in full control and when the story turns on this choice, the movie works beautifully.

The hook of this movie is that Baby Driver must listen to his iPod playlist in order to function as the best getaway driver in the world (or at least Atlanta). To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with the logline. But what is most impressive with this film is that the entire soundtrack is absolutely integral to the storytelling.

Music is often used to underscore or foreshadow the emotion that a story wants the audience to feel. Because that’s what music does. But the story was written in such a way so that every single clip of music was absolutely integral to the story. Some of it you’ll recognize, others will be obscure.

Lots of filmmakers will throw music in (sometimes as a way to cover up the lack of true emotion in the story) but Wright’s use of music was absolutely essential to the story. It’s a risk and it pays off in spades.

Technically, everything is flawless. The opening heist scene is cut in such a way to draw you in with quick edits and economical storytelling. And following that is the complete showoff on a single long take of Baby Driver going to get coffee, at least three or four minutes to establish the character. Brilliant.

I wasn’t familiar with the lead, Ansel Elgort. He is a compelling leading man, young as he may be, and I find him much more interesting than say, Miles Teller. And he more than holds his own against the likes of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm, all excellent.

I wasn’t that big of a Lilly James fan because I thought she was one dimensional in Downton Abbey, but here, I found her to have great chemistry with Ansel. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s stunning.

I think this is top notch filmmaking that took a risky premise and executed it flawlessly.

Except for my little nitpicks which have to do with the ending, the last three minutes of the film. But I like darker endings and where the story ends up is at least accessible and has hope.

Four stars out of four. Not quite an instant classic. Almost.

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