First off, Baby Driver is not like Boss Baby. They sound like they could belong to the same genre but they are not. Boss Baby is an animated film with the voice of Alec Baldwin. Baby Driver is a live action film with Ansel Elgort, a name that never seems right in written or spoken form. This is an action film to be sure with an almost non stop soundtrack of cool tunes. That’s the key to this film, it’s a cool movie. It could be film noir and there are definite noir elements here, the story, the characters, all point to noir but the cool factor keeps it light. Writer-Director Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) may have created a new genre: ‘fun noir’.
There have been other films about ‘drivers’. The Driver (1978) directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hours) is a dark and brooding noir with Ryan O’Neal as the silent, cool getaway driver sought after by everyone. He had a code and if you crossed him he had no problem dusting you.
Drive (2011) directed by Nicolas Winding and had Ryan Gosling as the cool driver. He had a temper and if you crossed him he would dust you. These were standard noirs and of the two I prefer The Driver (1978). You should watch it just to see a fantastically odd Bruce Dern performance.
The driver in Baby Driver is named ‘Baby’ a young kid who is constantly listening to music due to a car accident he was in as a child that left him with severe tinnitus. The accident also resulted in the death of his parents. He became a driver for criminals in order to pay off a debt to Doc (Kevin Spacey) for stealing his car. He also has a habit of tape recording conversations and using snippets of them in the music tracks he puts together. He lives with his deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones) and strikes up a romance with a waitress at the local diner, Debora (Lily James). This is great noir hero business. He does bad things but he’s good inside.
Things start going awry for Baby when Doc sets up another job to steal blank money orders from a post office. The crew consists of the amiable Buddy (Jon Hamm), his hot wife Darling (Elza Gonzales) and the unhinged Bats (Jamie Foxx). Bats takes a dislike to Baby right off and starts making decisions that create a lot of problems for the whole gang. The movie really picks up at this point and the four of them have really good chemistry. Foxx plays asshole really well. Hamm perhaps gives his best screen performance to date.
The tension mounts as Baby gets deeper and deeper in trouble and tries to figure his way out of the mess that’s been made by Bats. Things escalate and leads to a very exciting finish.
This is all set up very nicely and all the actors are terrific in their roles. It’s a cool movie, great soundtrack, good looking but it was missing something for me. I’m a film noir buff so maybe I’m a little more critical. I thought Baby’s actions in the final heist were questionable and I wasn’t completely behind him. Maybe I just like my film noir to be grittier, I don’t know. This felt like film noir for millennials. Or maybe I’m just an old fart. All that said I recommend you see Baby Driver. It’s highly entertaining and you will want to buy the soundtrack.
If you like Baby Driver you may also want to check out The Lookout (2007) directed by Scott Frank, a screenwriter mainly, who wrote the adaptations of Out of Sight (1998) and Get Shorty (1995) as well as the recent Logan (2017). This is a straight up film noir with Joseph Gordon Levitt and it has a very similar plotline as Baby Driver right down to the handicapped roommate which in this case was Jeff Daniels (blind). It’s grittier but I still think it’s pretty cool, too.