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That was a Fucking Movie!!! (a Baby Driver Review)

Well that was a fucking movie! I know it seems like I say that in a lot of reviews. But it’s all about inflection. You can tell it’s different because of the word “fucking” See, I walk out of a lot of movies and I say something like… “well… that was a movie…” and it’s sort of like I’m half reminding myself that I did actually just watch a motion picture… or maybe I’m not really sure, so I’m sort of asking myself if that’s what I did.

That’s not the case here. Baby Driver is more like “Well!!!! THAT was a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

And it really was. It was a MOVIE. A complete and total movie from start to finish. And what’s more, it was a genre movie. It’s basically a heist film. But it’s still a complete movie. A story. There’s like a beginning, a middle, and an end and everything!

I kind of forgot that was possible. Especially with a genre movies.

What really drove it home was the trailers. Before the movie there were trailers for Kingsmen 2, Daddy’s Home 2, Pitch Perfect 3, Bladerunner 2, Flatliners (2017), and Dark Tower. Four sequels, one reboot and the first film in a planned franchise. There was also a trailer for an upcoming horror movie called Wish Upon. Maybe there will only be one of those… but it’s a gimmick horror movie with a $12M budget. Those only exist on the dream that they hopefully kick off a franchise of cheap films that you can make over and over again. In other words, literally every movie they advertised before this film is part of a prospective series of films.

Because right now, as much as TV wants to be the movies, movies really really really want to be television. And this is becoming a serious problem. I have no problem with film franchises or cinematic universes. I love a good Spider-man movie as much as the next guy and I’m looking forward to seeing one next week. But there’s an issue when you’re only adapting existing intellectual property instead developing new stuff. Sooner or later you’re going to run out of good intellectual property to adapt and extend and then you’re going to have to start working with shit. What I’m saying is… who the fuck was asking for a Flatliners reboot? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yeah… I didn’t think so. What’s next, adapting a fucking emoji film? Spoilers… yes, they’re actually making an emoji movie. Or rather they made one. It comes out in a couple weeks. Because… ?

Anyway… Baby Driver isn’t that. In fact, Baby Driver is the opposite of that. Baby Driver is a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

The other problem with building films like this is that they are often built by committee. When you’re building a franchise, you want everything to run together. Your ultimate goal is to make money, so you need to create a world that is cohesive and repeatable more than you need to create art. This is a problem for both good franchises and bad. I don’t care if you’re Star Wars or the DCEU. When you lose the singular vision of the director, and your movie stops being a cohesive single story, then it begins to lose something. It’s not that those can’t be fun to watch. But they’re frequently not good movies. Fun, maybe, but not necessarily good. They often evolve into something else, because productization is more important than story or art.

Anyway… Baby Driver isn’t that either. In fact, Baby Driver is the opposite of that. Baby Driver is a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

And it really was. It was fucking great. Was it the best story? No. It was actually a relatively simple story. It was very formulaic. None of the characters were all that deep or fully developed. They were all pretty much one-note, in fact. Two seconds into seeing Jamie Foxx on screen you’ll say “oh… ok… he’s that guy.” Same with John Hamm. Same with Kevin Spacey. Same with Lily James, Same with Jon Bernthal.  And the same with Elza Gonzalez. Don’t expect any surprises out of the their characters. Whatever you get from your first impression of them… that’s pretty much who they are. That also includes the main character of Baby, played by Ansel Elgort. You get introduced to his quirks and persona in the first minute or two of the film, and from there on out, he’s pretty much just that. There are also a few big plot holes in it. The third act of the film could have more or less been avoided if the main character had not made a choice that he didn’t want to make but did so anyway for no apparent reason whatsoever. He is literally given a choice of A or B and basically says “well, if I choose B, the movie will end so I guess I’ll just go with A.” There’s not a lot of storytelling in this and there’s not a ton of emotional or character development.

And it wasn’t about that. This was about making a piece of art! There was some character development. There was some plot movement. But they were just tools used to construct the whole that is the stunning cinematic statement that is Baby Driver. The plot was no more important than the musical score. In fact, it was arguably less important. Because the film is constructed more like a symphony than a story. The music drives everything. In the same way that Mad Max: Fury Road was a film that was about the cinematography, this is a film that is about the score. And somehow it works. You know how I’ve said before that Sucker Punch is the most fun movie you can make without plot? Well this is what happens if you add just a little plot back in.. and a little bit of character… and then try to make it good. Roll the entire thing around fun action set pieces and bake at 350 until a movie rises…. allow to cool on a window sill…

And somehow it works. Baby Driver was a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

In other words, Zack Snyder wants to be Edgar Wright when he grows up.

He really does. This is exactly the kind of movie that I think Snyder wants to make. Only like… it’s good and stuff (actually its fucking great! if you haven’t been paying attention). What made it work is that Wright takes all the pieces and combines them into a vision that makes a statement with his medium. There’s a lot of “cool” bits in this movie. There are a lot of stunning scenes. But they are crafted together., They complete each other as a cohesive whole, rather than just being randomly strewn together because they were cool. Each piece compliments another. Jamie Foxx’s performance, by-the-numbers as it is (he’s played the basic character before), pushes the the plot forward. He provides a necessary complication in the world the film constructs. Elza Gonzalez’s character is pure sexiness, but she serves to develop both John Hamm and Lily James’s characters purely through contrast. The car chases and stunts while less epic than what you might expect in a Fast and Furious movie, work as plot points that literally move the story as the car travels through physical space perfectly tuned with the music that marks the passage of time. And each of these things combines to make the character of Baby, who honestly is as much of a simplistic stereotype as everyone else, amazingly compelling. You watch Elgort’s performance and you think “holy shit?!?!? where the fuck did the kid from Divergent learn how to act?!?!?”

The whole thing just works. Everything comes together and makes for a film that is better than the sum of it’s parts. Baby Driver was a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

And this is what I want. A movie that stands on its own. One of the things I always try to do with franchise films (especially the ones after the first) is ask myself “would you care about this at all if you didn’t know the source material?” This was my problem wirh Ghostbusters(2016). It wasn’t actually “good”; it was just a movie CALLED “Ghostbusters” that happened to have women in it. If it were called Spirit Killers, no one would have given a fuck about it either way. It would have been like Rough Night a couple weeks ago. But if Rough Night had been the same movie as it was and was just called Hangover 4: Ladies’ Night, a sequel in name only, it likely would have at least doubled if not tripled its box office. But at the cost of diluting the film marketplace even more. Because it’s not as good as Hangover was.

Baby Driver could have just as easily been called Heat 2: One Last Job or Gone in 60 More Seconds and tied into an existing franchise. It didn’t, It didn’t need to. It took itself seriously in and of itself and it works well in its own world. Not trying to set up a sequel and not trying to hold true to prequels that already exist. It is its own film with a beginning, middle and end. Just like this review.

And it was great… because Baby Driver is a FUCKING MOVIE!!!

★★★★¼(4.25 out of 5 stars)

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