Friday, August 4, 2017

Baby Driver

Coerced to a life of crime, getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) awaits the day when he no longer needs to go against the law. This wish of his further intensifies as he meets Debora (Lily James), a diner waitress who becomes his source of inspiration. A childhood accident has left him with a severe case of tinnitus, which he deals with by virtue of never-ending music through his earbuds. He also has a knack for creating mix tapes from various bits of conversations that he secretly records. When his criminal mastermind boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) does not keep his end of the bargain and forces him to perform more illegal activities for him, he must come to a tough decision. Should he keep up his life of crime to protect his loved ones from the likes of his criminal colleagues Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Bats (Jamie Foxx)? Or should they make a run for it? The question is, just how fast and far can he actually drive?

If you thought that opening sequence was cool, then you are in for a wonderful surprise because it acts more like a teaser for what else is to come. This film is simply awesome. There aren’t too many of this kind that provide you with this unique brand of audiovisual experience. A personal favorite is that scene where we first see him get coffee for his gang. Seeing his movements so in sync with the beat of the soundtrack while at the same time getting flashes of the song lyrics subtly blending in with the street environment is plain genius. It feels like an extended music video meant to share a more complicated narrative, or a musical that substitutes song and dance with rhythm and crisp body movement.

Elgort is perhaps the best choice for the lead role. True enough, his boyish features perfectly match the pseudo innocence required of the character. While the backstory runs quite thin, at least the inner struggle is made palpable thanks to the believable acting. In the end, sympathizing with Baby is not that hard a feat. You actually root for him, maybe for the mere reason that he is the only speck of light left in the rather dark underworld he is operating in. Does this excuse all the illegal acts he has committed? Obviously not, but at least there is a clear redemption angle just lurking along the sidelines. Besides, who doesn’t really want to support a reformed protagonist, right?

The soundtrack is just as incredible as the finished product. Most of the new scenes are introduced by some retro rhythm and a distinct beat. The artsy convergence of music, movement, and visuals just tickles your fancy each time. This is one of those movies that you wouldn’t mind viewing over and over again. In fact, it might be a necessity eventually if only to better appreciate the efforts of the people responsible for stringing all those elements together in such a fluid manner to come up with this masterpiece. If you are keen on details, a second viewing will also satisfy your curiosity in terms of what you missed the first time around. As far as aesthetics is concerned, this film is a sure winner.

The screenplay is not devoid of violence, but the good thing is that they do not go full gory. The car chase scenes might appear too contrived, yet the way they were filmed just makes your jaw drop. This is a story about driving, after all. But the cars don’t just crash and burn, they groove to the beat! As for Baby himself, he can be interpreted as a metaphor too, or better yet, a personification of how to deal with hardships in life through the power of music. Come to think of it, this is also just an exaggerated take on the therapeutic capabilities of music and its beneficial effects on daily routine. Or maybe not. This is a heist movie, really!

The success of your heist is only as good as your getaway driver. Keep that in mind the next time you try to rob a bank. In Baby Driver we get yet another romanticized take on the thug life. The film is no Bonnie & Clyde, but it’s that pair that easily comes to mind when you try to think of something similar. We’re just glad that instead of the heavy display of violence and risky car chase scenes, it’s actually the personal struggle that is highlighted as a source of conflict, turning the former into an entertaining audiovisual spectacle instead. What you get is a good blend of both, and you simply end up appreciating the artistic touch.

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