I can be an obstinate man at the best of times, and whilst this has served me favourably from time to time, it did result in my watching The Fault In Our Stars just to prove a point. I don’t recall what the point was, as I’ve tried to sear the memory of that film from my brain with a hot wire, but needless to say I was not keen to see Ansel ‘Second-Most-Punchable-Face-In-Hollywood-After-Shia-LeBeouf’ Elgort smarm his way through another film any time soon. By that logic, Baby Driver wasn’t looking at a good write-up, especially after Edgar Wright’s last stint in the director’s chair left me feeling somewhat lukewarm. Imagine my pleasant surprise, therefore, when it transpires that Baby Driver is fucking awesome and is a strong contender for my favourite film of 2017.
Baby Driver manages something that seems impossible by current standards of cinematic spectacle and striking a perfect balance between action and comedy, with neither element overbalanced by the other. The action is pulse-pounding, with the car chases in particular being incredibly fast-paced and exciting, and considering I usually don’t care much for car chases in films, it says a lot that they were worth mentioning. But whilst the action is full-on, it is juxtaposed wonderfully with the comedic scenes and never feels relentless. This is almost entirely due to the writing, which manages to be funny without being quippy or smug. The characters are all well cast and interesting, and one would think that with big names like Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx they’d all be fighting for screen time, but this isn’t the case. Every character has their own place in the plot, and I was particularly partial to Jon Hamm’s almost jovial bank robber who turns full psychopath towards the climax. The only negative thing I can say with regard to the casting is that Lily James is just crap and should phone in her career straight away. I know this sounds harsh, but I’ve sat through enough of her ‘performances’ to know that she is cast entirely on looks, and is only in this film as a type-cast, two-dimensional love interest, bringing nothing but a fluttering of eyelashes and an admittedly charming smile.
I suppose the most interesting thing about Baby Driver for me is it’s central theme. I chuckle when I picture a Fast And Furious fan waltz into the movie theatre and storm out with his snapback askew when he/she realises that the film is about music and not about cars. The main character’s tinnitus-induced iPod fetishes are the central component of the film, with each song cunningly describing his situation with it’s lyrics, as in ‘Nowhere To Run To Baby’ and ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’. I’ve said before that a soundtrack can be the making or breaking of some films, and in this instance the soundtrack is absolutely stellar, combining heartfelt ballads for the characters development and powerful rock tracks for the action scenes. And without wishing to spoil anything, as a result of this films climax, I have listened to ‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen upwards of fifty times since leaving the cinema, and it still makes me grin like a schoolboy.
There are few perfect films in this world (with the possible exception of Super Troopers), but Baby Driver is dangerously close to the mark. Lily James’ pointless insertion into the runtime notwithstanding, the film is engaging and entertaining throughout, with Elgort’s minimalist acting being very convincing and even moving in places. Add to this an outstanding performance by the rest of the cast, a kickass soundtrack and some of the best action I have seen in years, Baby Driver is one of the best films to be released this year, and certainly one of the best I have reviewed. In fact I can’t think of a film on the horizon which might surpass it. What’s that? Dunkirk? I’ll be right back…