Every summer has a few “breaks” worked into the mad rush of summer blockbusters and this year’s is a pedal to the metal, fast-paced thriller sort of break (with no breaks), but next to the high-budget, superhero thrillers of the season, “Baby Driver” manages to feel smaller somehow.
At its onset, “Baby Driver” is your typical heist film, with some beautifully choreographed chase scenes (seriously, well done). Our hero, Baby (Ansel Elgort)…yes, that is his name…lives an equally well-choreographed life, with the near-constant accompaniment of his multitude of iPods, which drown out the tinnitus (the result of a traumatic childhood experience).
Having made the mistake of stealing from (and as a result, impressing) his now boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey) he’s now stuck in a “just one more job” life of crime with a cycling cast of “co-workers” (Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, and Eiza González).
The soundtrack of this movie is its own character, and a reflection of Baby himself, which is fascinating, and touching as we learn more about Baby’s backstory and the connection between him, the music, and his late mother. Unfortunately most of these beautiful themes don’t go much deeper. In its defense, everything in this movie sticks close to the surface, that includes Baby’s love interest, Debora (Lily James), his foster father (CJ Jones), and even Baby’s own story.
It’s too fast-paced and precisely timed to take too much time for backstory, and that’s totally fine right up until the end when I found myself scratching my head. I’m going to stick to my code of no spoilers here and just say that the finale of this film felt out of place. And by that I mean it felt unaware of the world around it. I’m all for escapism, but this was the exact opposite. It stepped right into the middle of controversy and just pretended it wasn’t there.
I accept that not every movie is written for everyone, and that every story cannot cure or even address all of society’s ills, but there is something especially tone deaf about the ending of this movie. Which I suppose in its own way got me, and likely other filmgoers to discuss it, but the story’s lack of self-awareness concerning the hot button issue it’s brought to light is uncomfortable at best.
Now I will get down off of my soapbox and say that, if you love car chases and shootouts with a truly well-paired soundtrack, you will love this movie, especially if you’re able to overlook its lack of consideration for cultural context. On the surface it’s a smooth ride, dig deeper and things get a little bumpy.