Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Edgar Wright
Action/Crime/Music, Rated: R
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: June 28, 2017
Nobody puts Baby in the corner, unless he’s driving around the corner of your block.
This Baby’s got a lot of Miles on him, that’s for sure. Let’s recap.
We’re introduced to Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young hot shot getaway driver. He has tinnitus – a ringing in the ears – and must constantly listen to music to escape the din. His boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) has him indentured as Baby stole one of his cars years ago. Now, Baby has to drive getaway for bank robbers until his debt is paid. And he has just one more run to go to pay back what he owes.
Baby successfully completes his final job for Doc and then meets a lovely young woman named Debora (Lily James). The two hit it off but when they’re out to dinner one night, Doc confronts Baby and threatens Debora’s safety if Baby doesn’t perform one more getaway drive. Baby reluctantly agrees and makes plans to run away with Debora. The driving job goes wrong in several ways and Baby finds himself fighting for his life and for the safety of Debora and his foster father Joseph (CJ Jones).
Scott, I’m rarely bowled over by a movie, but Baby Driver hits all the right notes. I cannot describe the precision of every detail in this film. Right from the opening credits where Baby rocks out to “Bellbottoms” – every beat, break, and note is linked with the action we see on the screen. Director of Photography Bill Pope (The Matrix) aligns the lyrics to scenic elements. Editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss synchronize the constant drum of the soundtrack to every image we see on the screen. Even Ansel Elgort lip-syncs these songs as if he were raised on them as mother’s milk. If you thought the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy was great, you must see Baby Driver. There is nothing else like this film.
Absolutely correct, Greg. Despite a few minor flaws, Baby Driver is one of the best films of 2017. My fear going into the movie was that it would be a remake of Fast and Furious, but this movie is far superior to any installment of the F&F franchise. The driving scenes are mostly in the service of character development and moving the plot forward. Director Edgar Wright deserves Oscar consideration for exemplary and innovative camera work, and Kevin Spacey merits similar recognition for his portrayal of a ruthless yet brilliant mastermind villain.
Oddly, we’re introduced to our hero, Baby, midway through his hero’s journey. We’re told through narrative exposition that Baby was thrust into his main hero’s journey years earlier when his parents died in a car crash. Later he’s thrown into another sub-journey when he steals Doc’s car. This unusual story structure has the advantage of propelling us into the action right away but it also denies us seeing Baby’s origin story. I, for one, would love to see a prequel to this film that would take us back to Baby’s childhood and adolescence so that we can see how he evolved into a thief and then got swallowed into Doc’s cauldron of evil.
I thought the hero’s journey was pretty standard, actually. In his ordinary world, Baby’s a driver for a dark mentor, Doc. Things are going pretty well when one day he meets a beautiful young woman. She lays down the call to adventure – to hit the road and never look back. Now, his main goal is to finish his job with Doc and get out of town. But there are complications when Doc doesn’t let Baby out of the job. It’s an expertly executed story structure from beginning to end. The bits about his parents’ demise is all backstory. But I would go with you to see that backstory as a prequel. Yes, indeed.
As a hero, Baby is perfect – by having flaws. He is basically a good kid. He has a “superpower” of being an exceptional driver. He’s kind to his deaf-mute foster father. He’s gallant with his love interest. Yet, he’s in the dark business of robbing banks – which occasionally results in someone getting hurt or killed. He’s a bit of an anti-hero with Doc as a dark mentor and Debora as the anti-villain – leading him away from a life of crime.
So does that mean that Baby fails to transform as most good heroes do? We get the sense that he’s a good man. He takes care of his indigent foster father; he warns the post office worker not to enter the building while it’s being robbed; and he returns the purse to the lady whose car he hijacks. He’s a good person caught in a bad situation — something we can all relate to and ultimately draws us to him. But he seems to be this good person from the beginning of the film to the end, suggesting a lack of transformation.
Quite possibly Baby’s transformation is not a moral one but a mental and emotional one. He falls in love, quite possibly for the first time, and learns all too well the price of loving another. His dealings with Doc reinforce the darkness of the world and teach him valuable lessons about trust and loyalty. And speaking of Doc, the film’s end showcases an act of supreme redemption when Doc sacrifices his life to save Baby and Debora. Redemption, by definition, implies transformation, and Doc’s was both powerful and timely.
I’m glad you brought up Doc’s transformation. It seemed sudden and out of character. We don’t get any indication that Doc is soft-hearted in any way. He’s very hard-nosed, in fact. He threatens to call off the Post Office job when a weapons deal goes south. He’s ruthless, cunning, and uncompromising. Yet, at the last minute, when he sees Baby has a girlfriend, he has a change of heart and helps Baby escape, even giving his own life. It was a transformation that didn’t ring true.
Despite this flaw, I still found Baby Driver was an amazing piece of art and I cannot recommend it higher. I give Baby Driver a full 5 Reels out of 5.
Baby is a great hero – possibly even an anti-hero. While he is virtuous, his morals are in question as he is a thief and an accomplice to burglary and even murder. But we like him for his high level of competence as a driver and his kindness to his girlfriend and foster father. I give Baby 5 out of 5 Heroes.
The transformations in this film are good, but I’m not sure they’re great. Baby is sentenced to 25 years in jail with parole at 5 years. And in the epilog, it appears he is released for his good deeds at parole. And he appears to have become the moral man we know he can be. However Doc’s inexplicable transformation from a dark mentor to a martyr is hard to believe. I can only give 4 out of 5 Deltas for them.
Baby Driver is one of the best films of 2017, a true sleeper hit that is crafted stylishly and expertly in terms of story quality, character development, and the heroic journey. This is one of those movies that deserves Oscar consideration but likely won’t receive it because of the time of year (early summer) that it was released. I’m happy to award Baby Driver 4 Reels out of 5.
Baby is a hero, not an anti-hero, as he ends on a morally positive note, extricating himself from his life of crime while demonstrating a loving heart to his father, his girlfriend, and even complete strangers. Baby has many of the characteristics of the great eight traits of heroes, including intelligence, strength, reliability, resilience, caringness, selflessness, and inspiration. I give Baby a hero rating of 4 Heroes out of 5.
Regarding heroic transformation, Baby finds love which heightens his transformation away from his life of crime. Along the way he also discovers key insights about himself and the dark world of crime. Greg, you may be right about Doc’s transformative self-sacrifice being out of character, but I’m not so sure. Baby may have won over Doc the way he won over everyone else. Still, I’m only giving this film 3 Deltas out of 5 because we never do see Baby’s original, central transformation to a life of crime, as this movie begins at the midpoint of the hero’s journey. Let’s hope a prequel film is in the works that will illuminate Baby’s path toward criminality.