If you look back at all of my car movie reviews, you’ll notice that there is one thing in common amongst them: they are all older films. In fact, the latest film that I’ve examined, was released in 2011. The majority of them date back to the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties.
I’d presuppose that this is due primarily because the car movie genre was strongest in those decades, and secondarily, because the art of a good car movie seems to have been lost on today’s filmmakers. That is until 2017, because this very year, a sensational automotive film was unleashed, and is the subject of this month’s Rob’s Car Movie Review: Baby Driver (2017).
Baby Driver was produced in cooperation by Tri-Star Pictures, Working Title Films, Big Talk Productions, Double Negative, and Media Rights Capital, and was released domestically in the United States by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Written and directed by Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World helmer, Edgar Wright, A luminous cast, including Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, and Ansel Elgort bring the characters alive.
Baby (Elgort) is an incredibly talented getaway driver who was made an orphan and a lifelong sufferer of tinnitus in a car crash as a toddler. Now in his twenties, he religiously listens to pop music on his iPod to drown out the aural symptoms of his condition, and to pump himself up before a job. Years earlier, Baby indebted himself to a crime boss, Doc (Spacey), who spared his life after Baby had stolen his car containing a large amount of ill-gotten loot. Baby is now an indentured servant to Doc, and does getaway driver gigs to pay off his debt to the mobster.
After a successful bank robbery and subsequent high-speed pursuit with police, Baby meets Debora (James), an ethereal, young waitress at a diner he frequents. The two soon engage in a romance, just as things in Baby’s shadowy vocational life begin to heat up. When a trio of psychopathic co-horts (Foxx, Gonzalez, and Hamm) feel betrayed by Baby, they attempt to exact revenge against him by going after Debora.
Baby Driver is a thoroughly fresh take on a proven plotline. The cause and effect loops are standard for the genre, but are infused with new life by the highly original characterizations and their idiosyncrasies. Adding to this is the film’s the witty, hip dialog choices, bold cinematography, and creative editing. Storytelling in its most millennial form.
But what really separates Baby Driver from other similar films from the past such as Drive, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Driver, is the absolutely stunning and groundbreaking stunt driving. The opening sequence, lasting a good eight minutes, consists of one long pursuit, involving handbrake drifting, wrong way driving, and an automotive shell game. And, it’s all set to a high energy pop tune. I’ve gotta admit, I’ve never seen anything like it. Further chase sequences are just as frenetic, with one particular pursuit involving a big-rig being absolutely spectacular. Kudos to the stunt drivers in this one!
Of course, without a bevy of souped-up road machines, none of this fancy wheeling could take place, and again, in this regard, Baby Driver doesn’t disappoint. The opening sequence features Baby behind the wheel of a cherry red 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX, which Baby practically uses up to the point that the wheels are ready to fall off.
Another chase involves an eggplant-purple 1989 Chevy Caprice Classic. Yet another pits Baby in a Torred 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 against John Hamm in another Mopar, a pilfered 2011 Dodger Charger R/T Hemi police pursuit vehicle.
Other cars featured in the film are various high-end SUVs, a Mercedes S550, a magnificent 1959 Chevy Impala convertible, and a boat-sized 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V.
Baby Driver is the kind of film I’d really like to see Hollywood make more of. A smart, stylish and entertaining film, featuring rich characters, a terrific soundtrack, and raucous automotive action. It’s a formula that works every time.
I give Baby Driver seven and a half out of ten pistons.