Part musical, part heist flick, part YA romance, part revenge thriller, but definitely all comedy and car chases, Baby Driver was an exhilarating and utterly original story that defied easy categorisation. But yet for all its genre-challenging bravados, Edgar Wright's baby failed to really slam the pedal to the metal and break out of its genre(s) confinements - succumbing to the cliches and expectations - to establish something new.
With a great soundtrack that was literally almost start to end, Edgar Wright definitely put a new spin on the meaning of a musical. And he wisely chose to ignore pop music and went for a more esoteric 60s/70s reggae/jazzy and 90s rap/hip hop kinda vibe, letting the rhythms and beats drive the action. Seriously, who has not driven in a car to the beat of a song?
As for the car chase scenes, the musicality of it kept it fresh, but, to be honest, they were not terribly exciting. We have seen better. Initial D any one? Or even the early Fast and the Furious entries. Then there was also the ultimate - in my opinion - cinematic care-chase scene in Ronin. What Wright did here was a lot of fancy edits and the killer sound tracks to drive the action.
However, other than the car chases, Wright's directing was superb. That fantastic long-take opening scene with the credits...brilliant! And timed together with the music/lyrics...phenomenal! Then we also have the great pacing. At under 120 minutes, it never felt that long. The story kept moving forward and we always remained interested to know how the shit is going to fall. Because, the shit has to fall.
Classic Wright humour of suffused throughout the film. Often wry and deadpanned, many of it were not laugh out loud broad comedy the likes of Judd Apatow or Ben Stiller, but the humour really shone through the sight gags, the witty and quippy dialogue and the fantastic dry humour of Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm.
Ansel Elgort was well cast as our titular hero. With his baby-face and slightly bashful, self-conscious demeanour, he was an apt choice to play the unlikely getaway driver who just want to date the cute waitress in the diner.
Lily James shone as the love interest, giving her a bit of an edge and enigma rather than being just the pretty blonde thing.
James and Elgort had great chemistry and their scenes were actually high points of the show. Wright had managed to interweave a believable meet cute, and a surprisingly sweet and tender, YA-esque love story, into an high octane car chase / heist thriller. It was important that we buy into their romance for the third act to really work.
Speaking of the third act, Wright zagged right there and we slid right into revenge thriller territory. In somebody else's hand this might have been ridiculous, but by now we are so invested in these over-the-top, yet so damn earnest characters, that we just take it all in and go along with it.
Having Jon Hamm sure helped. Don Draper lives.
Kevin Spacey had a non-showy role and he did not chew the scenery as much as Frank Underwood, but that role is so engrained in our expectations of him, that it was hard to not associate him with it. Spacey should do more comedy.
Jamie Foxx does crazy well and he sure is someone that is easy to dislike. Acting? Or for reals?
Shoutouts to Jon Bernthal - nothing more than a glorified cameo - and Eiza Gonzalez - as the femme fatale cliche.
Baby Driver was a wholly fun mixed-genre entertainment that proved that original content can still be great. Wright could have taken more risks veering a bit more toward his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy but that might not have suited his Hollywood partners as much. Pity.