Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017) – tunes, tension, and terrible female characters.

Ansel Elgort stars alongside Kevin Spacey, Lily James, and Jamie Foxx in this car-chase heavy, cliché-ridden film that features its lead Elgort as the titular Baby, a young man suffering from tinnitus after a traumatising childhood incident involving a car. He’s constantly plugged in to his array of classic iPods, the music seeping into the soundtrack that Wright synchronises with the actions of his criminal characters. Guns fire on beat as the music video-esque scenes play out, and the minutest of sounds and actions are weaved into the music in the most satisfying way. It’s definitely a Wright signature; the films of his beloved Cornetto Trilogy utilised this same technique, but Baby Driver amplifies the familiar style.

The story flowed well, particularly in the first half. The loss of this as the film progressed was more due the weaker storyline and violence that increased tenfold, without also increasing its ‘comedic’ elements, leaving the finale feeling unbalanced in relation to the narrative as a whole. Whilst the character of Baby was interesting in itself, other characters and overall general characterisation felt deficient.

The two female characters Debbie (Lily James) and Darling (Eiza Gonzàlez) were subjected to the roles of love interests, of Baby and Buddy (Jon Hamm) respectively. Darling was a shoddy attempt at a ‘strong female character’, barely achieving anything besides being handsy with her husband and looking pretty whilst shooting a gun in the most absurdly incorrect way. Baby Driver is arguably a film that focuses on style over substance, but that isn’t really an excuse for making a badly written female character with no agency or development when other (male) characters are allowed the same thing.

Debbie (Lily James)

Other character problems go beyond the female representation and to the writing itself. Characters, such as Spacey’s Doc, seem to change up their reaction depending on what the scene requires. His actions make little sense in relation to previous established context. Even motivations weren’t solid, with the only excusable character arc being Baby and Debora’s; they just want to drive away together, no plan or idea, just the road. This cliché genuinely works alongside the comedic elements of the film, as well as complimenting the other stylistic homages that Wright chooses to use.

Although the major issue with the characterisation could turn someone off, this doesn’t really diminish the rest of the film (the female characters are disappointing, yes, but we’re used to it). The fairly weak storyline is elevated by the fun and musical twist on the typical heist genre that is furthered by the great acting. The finale felt rushed and a little repetitive, but the car chase scenes accompanied by satisfying synchronisation to the music made up for it. The style of Wright is prevalent, if a little lacking in heart unlike his previous hits. The concept of morality in Baby Driver also felt off in a way, as if they didn’t know what to make right or wrong and instead just threw in a bunch of dialogue at the end to prove the main character’s morality. Again, this ties in with the problems of the characterisations.

This take on the heist film is certainly more accessible to a wider audience, especially with the soundtrack and homages to clichéd narratives (which either hit the funny mark or pass the cringe line). Even if you’re not a fan of car chases or shoot-outs, you’ll enjoy Baby Driver’s modern musical version that still keeps its tense action amongst the Bellbottoms and Harlem Shuffle.

The worst part of this film, however, is the unfortunate amount of allegations and charges against a few of the main cast members, most notably Kevin Spacey. Wright and the rest of the cast and crew still created an amazing film, and whilst it’s unfair to diminish their creative achievements, no further support should be given to the actors that have (at least) been charged.


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