As much as I try to stay in touch with the film world, every now and then a film comes out of nowhere and dominates social and mainstream media. Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is just one of those films, that went from being a blip on people's radar to being one of the most critically and commercially popular films of 2017 so far.
Baby Driver follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a get-away driver who finds himself paying off a debt to one of Atlanta's major crime bosses. The cast is made up of incredibly familiar faces from both the independent and commercial film scenes. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey are wonderfully cast alongside Elgort as the criminal underbelly of Baby's desire to make a life for himself independent from criminality. Lily James, who dons a pretty convincing American accent as love interest Debora, falls perfectly into the manic-pixie-dream-girl clichè (but more on that later).
© TriStar Pictures / image via technobuffalo.com
Baby Driver is by far the most contradictory film I've ever seen. Not only does it manage to constantly contradict itself, but it also left me conflicted about my feelings of the film by the time I left the cinema. Much noise has been made about the film's soundtrack and Wright possesses a sort of musicality that only choreographers have, perfectly mickey-mousing actions through the composite score that plays as Baby's inner monologue throughout the film. But besides the soundtrack, most elements of Baby Driver don't add up. The cinematography, which makes use of fantastic steadicam shots, is comedic in lighting and color palette but perfectly captures the action genre in its composition. Wright's screenplay also fluctuates throughout the narrative, providing truly laugh out loud moments which are followed only by light chuckles and the rare chortle. Elgort's role, although poignant and well performed, also seems to be slightly miscast. As the film progressed and Baby's mannerisms became more accentuated, I thought that the role may have been better fitted for someone less classically-handsome and charismatic; who is more cemented into the awkward persona that Baby seems to represent. I kept seeing a young Jesse Eisenberg in Elgort's shoes, someone who could perfectly teeter the line between genius and unstable. It may just be that due to his previous roles in young-adult hits like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, Elgort is already type-cast in my brain but i couldn't help but think that with a different actor, the film's tone would have been more constant.
© TriStar Pictures / image via cbr.com
It's this shifting narrative tone that makes Baby Driver one of the most effective anxiety-inducing films out there. By the end of the film, the events and characters' decisions lean towards surrealism, contradicting everything we thought we knew about them. Wright manages to somehow write and direct a character-driven film with minimal character development, slowly peeling back each character's layers until we realize those facets were always there just under the surface. Baby Driver also falls victim to a mountain of clichés and tropes within the action genre. James perfectly pulls off the guise of the manic-pixie-dream-girl, blindly following Baby's every whim without ever voicing an opinion or desire of her own. Foxx also manages to be boxed into the 'Black thug' stereotype despite being in a cast of almost entirely criminal characters. The film also does the action genre thing of providing elongated, almost masturbatory, depictions of hyper-masculinity with a plethora of engine revving, gun firing and explosions with the usual sprinkling of misogyny.
On paper, Baby Driver looks like a film I wouldn't like, but somehow it forgives itself. Whether Wright purposefully created an almost satirical commentary on the action genre and heightened masculinity or, in this case, too many wrongs do make a right, is unclear, but Baby Driver left me confused, excited and entertained proving that even films in this genre I generally stay clear of, can provide an intellectually stimulating view on the world. One thing's for sure though: Baby Driver exhibits more iPods in its 113 minutes than the entire last decade of films combined.
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Published by Gemma Pecorini Goodall