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At The Movies

Baby Driver ★★★★

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Eiza Gonzales

Baby Driver is a full-throttle-pedal-to-the-metal joy ride of a heist film directed by Edgar Wright. With its pounding soundtrack, explosive action and an ensemble of talented cast the film will leave any thrill seeker well satisfied.

The story revolves around the young protagonist Baby (Ansel Elgort) who’s been dragged into the world of crime by an unscrupulous crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). After unwittingly stealing Doc’s car Baby is forced to pay off his debt by playing the role of get-away driver in a number of daring heists.

Having been a car thief and joy rider since childhood means that Baby is an exceptional driver. Despite his boyish young looks and gentle demeanour his abilities behind the wheel earn him the begrudging respect of his rough looking and dangerous criminal crew members.

After having completed what was supposed to be his last heist Baby is confronted by the fact that Doc has no intention of letting him go and that if he wants to keep those close to him safe he would have no choice but to continue his life of crime. But once things begin to unravel and the heists (and his crew members) become increasingly unpredictable Baby decides that he has had enough and that it was time to look for an exit ramp.

The cast in the film all did a fantastic job. Ansel Elgort plays the damaged (physically and mentally), edgy but kind hearted in-over-his head Baby really well and makes it easy to root for the character. Elgort doesn’t have many lines in the film so his facial expressions and body language do most of the talking.

Though there are a number of different crew members throughout the film, the ones we see most often are the charming Buddy (Jon Hamm), the Bonnie to Buddy’s Clyde Darling (Eiza Gonzales) and the utterly psychotic Bats (Jamie Fox). All three do a superb job but Hamm’s character Buddy takes special notice as he does have an unexpected arc that avoids the formulaic and goes in a completely different direction to what one would expect.

And of course, no review of Baby Driver would be completed without mentioning the soundtrack. The music in this film is not simply there to enhance a scene or set the mood. It is an integral part of the plot and a major part of Baby’s character. After having been in a car accident when he was a child Baby is left with a bad case of tinnitus. Music is the only thing that can drown it out. Whether it’s one of Baby’s many iPods, a car radio, a record player or a diner jukebox, moments without music in this film are few and far between. The choreography in the film is designed around the soundtrack and at times it feels like a musical with our main character about to break into a song at any moment. Feet tapping, gunshots blasting, engines revving, cars crashing and people screaming are all integrated to be part of whatever song happens to be playing at the time. The fact that the soundtrack itself is a rockin’ good time doesn’t hurt either.

If you’re in a mood for an original, truly heart pounding, never ceasing action heist film with a musical twist then I would highly recommend this film for you.

 

 

 

 

 

All Eyez On Me ★★★

 

Director: Benny Boom

Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Lauren Cohan, Jamal Woolard

All Eyez On Me is a biopic directed by Benny Boom about the life, career and death of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.).

Most of the story is told through an interview Tupac gives to an unnamed reporter (Hill Harper) while in jail on sexual assault charges. The film drops the interview storytelling format once Tupac is released from jail and continues to follow him until his tragic death.

The story begins by giving some insight into Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) and how her black panther activism may have influenced Tupac in later years. From then the story moves through pretty much every highlight of Tupac’s life that gained any media attention at the time (hit singles, police brutality, film career, jail sentences, Death Row Records etc) until and including the scene of his death.

And there lies the main problem with the film. It feels like a compilation of disconnected scenes from different periods of the rapper’s life with no insight into how those events affected or changed him as a person. Tupac goes from being a drama student in Baltimore to a gun toting gangsta’ rapper without the filmmakers making any real attempt to explain why. The film focuses too much on trying to recreate the history that made Tupac a notorious public figure in the media and not enough on how all those events affected the real man behind the scenes.

Throughout the film the filmmakers briefly show us Tupac as a caring brother and son, as a movie actor, as a showman and as an angry gangsta’ rapper and a revolutionary speaking truth to power. But we hardly ever see him as a creative artist. We hardly ever see how all the events that unfolded around him inspired and motivated his music. I can only recall a single short scene where Tupac is actually shown to be writing lyrics. The film instead depicts the level of Tupac’s genius through short clip recreations of his music videos and constant references to how many records he sold. Because the scenes are so short we hardly get into any fluid character development.

All in all, the film barely scratches the surface when it comes to Tupac’s life. The filmmakers glorify the highlights of his career, and gloss over the more controversial aspects of his personal life. The film feels like a set of cliffs notes strung into a script, or a ‘Tupac For Dummies’ book.

While the soundtrack in the film is obviously excellent (given the films subject) the cinematography was flat and not very creative. Given that this is a film about one of the greatest and influential rappers of all time, it deserved to be better.

Unfortunately, there’s not much more I can say about this film. The main actors all did a good job. Shipp did bear a lot of resemblance to Tupac and did a good job portraying the star, but Gurira’s performance would have to be the standout here.

If you don’t know anything about Tupac, then this may be a good introduction into his life and career. But if you’re an avid fan then you’re not going to find anything new or informative to take away from this biopic.

 

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