Thursday, November 02, 2017

Baby Driver

Baby Driver (2017, dir. Edgar Wright) is all motion, speed, action, and sound. The plot is hackneyed: our young man has a car wreck with a local crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey).  Baby agrees to pay for the damage he has caused by driving cars for Doc to and from various heists and robberies around the city. It also so happens that the young man (played by Ansel Elgort), referred to throughout the film only as “Baby,” has tinnitus, the result of a car wreck when he was five years old that killed his parents.  He still mourns and loves his mother. Over the five-years since the wreck, Baby has earned his way out of debt and stops driving for Doc. He gets a job delivering pizzas. And he falls in love with a young woman named Debra at a local restaurant. She falls in love with him. Doc blackmails Baby into driving for him again, threatening Debra’s life and the lives of others close to him.

The film encourages us to see that Baby is basically a good person caught in a tight situation. He does good deeds for people. He takes care of an old black man who is confined to a wheelchair and who shares his apartment. He returns a purse to a woman whose car he has just hijacked. He warns another woman to stay out of the bank about to be robbed. Baby is good. The circumstances he finds himself caught in are bad. Baby might also be somewhat stupid, given some of the decisions he makes, though the film doesn’t consider this possibility.

There are a number of non sequiturs in this film, a number of questions one might want to ask. As good as he might be, Baby certainly makes a number of bad decisions.  Couldn’t he have found a way to extricate himself from Doc‘s control? Kevin Spacey seemed not quite right as the crime boss. (Of course, since I saw the film, he’s been revealed to be not quite right in more significant ways). Why do I not believe in John Hamm’s portrayal of a drug addict. These quibbles don’t matter.  The action matters: it is almost relentless. And Baby matters: he is the one we care about.

Excellent editing and camera work make this film what it is. Some scenes last only a few seconds. But over the course of the first half of the film through various maneuvers and edits the director builds a narrative that hurls itself forward.

Baby Driver is set in Atlanta. We see Atlanta streets and newspapers and buildings. However, the film really doesn't make much of its Atlanta setting, which it mostly takes for granted. That's okay. This is not a film about place, about a local region. It's about speed, motion, and Baby Driver.

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