Baby Driver (or not)

Modern technology is great, right? For a while now it’s been the case that when you go to a movie theater, they don’t have to change projectors and load film reels during screenings because all the film has been spliced together and plays through one projector.

Screenings in Singapore, the ones that aren’t IMAX or 3D, all seem to bear the label “Digital”, so one assumes that perhaps in most cases, there’s no film at all. Maybe that upsets traditionalists, and maybe there are some things about analog films that are better than digital films, and connoisseurs will prefer to make pilgrimages to theatres that stick to older-style projectors, but on the whole I assume digital screenings are an improvement.

My assumption was tested when my husband and I went to watch a digital screening of Baby Driver. Somewhere maybe two-thirds of the way through, we lost the picture. The audio continued, but all we could see were some colorful, unmoving shapes and stripes on the screen. The few of us in the small theater seemed to wake as if from a dream, and started looking around awkwardly.

Someone was found to complain to, the audio and screen were shut off, hasty, vague explanations were made, people passed the time on their mobile phones. They never managed to get the movie going again. We agreed to accept movie ticket vouchers and come back another day.

Below is a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I’ve included my predictions for what I think happens in the last third of the movie, which I didn’t see (or read about online).

My Beat Sheet for Baby Driver

Opening Image
He’s in the car with the heist team; they get out and he starts dancing to the music.

Set-up / Theme Stated
The heist team comes back with the cash and he drives off, leading the police on a chase through Atlanta, fooling them by driving near two other red cars, eventually dumping the red car in a parking garage.

He brings four coffees labeled with his name, “Baby”, to the meetup where the team divides the money into duffel bags. The other thieves whine a bit about how he gets the same payout as everyone else, even though he’s kind of a kid and not much of a criminal.

(There’s a funny bit where his sunglasses get snatched, and he pulls out another pair. After they get snatched again, he pulls out another ‘nother pair. Is this kid weird or what? We also find out he has several iPods, including one with pink rhinestones all over it, for different moods.)

One of the thieves asks him whether he thinks he’s better than everybody else, and warns him that one day he’ll have blood on his hands that he’ll be unable to wash off.

He has to give almost all of the money back to “Doc”, the man with the plan, because apparently he’s in debt, and has to drive whenever Doc phones him.

He takes the remaining money home, where he uses recording equipment and synthesizers to splice together a kind of song using a tape of one of the thieves asking, “Is he slow?”. He has dozens of handmade tapes, one of which says “Mom”.

He has memories of a car crash caused by an argument his mom was having with his dad, while he was in the back seat listening to his iPod. Now he lives with an old, deaf/mute black guy in a wheelchair, his foster father, with whom he converses in sign language. He switches the television channel when he sees his foster father watching a news story about the heist he was involved in.

Catalyst
At his favorite diner, he meets a new, pretty waitress named Debora who’s singing a song with lyrics that spell “Baby”. He converses with her about music, and ignores calls on his phone. When he returns home, his foster father approves of his change in mood. Then the next call comes.

Debate / Break into Two
Just this one more heist, and then I’ll get a real job, Baby promises his foster father.

Promise of the Premise
Doc uses different thieves for every heist, so Baby has to endure more skepticism from the new crew, who assume he isn’t paying attention just because he has his earbuds in.

They do the job, but Baby sees the thieves fatally shoot some security men unnecessarily. A guy in a truck with a gun chases the getaway car and shoots at them; Baby makes one of the thieves miss the shot he takes at their pursuer, but later lies (unconvincingly) and says he didn’t. When the thieves switch cars, he makes sure to extract the baby in the backseat first, returning it to the mother.

The thieves get away safe, but not clean. During the switch, one thief left his gun (and presumably fingerprints) behind. That’s not okay with Doc. When he takes the last of the payments Baby owes him, he instructs Baby to dispose of the car with the careless thief’s dead body in the trunk. Feeling sick, Baby takes the car to be squashed at a junkyard, watches the machine, and tosses his driving gloves and flip phone away, thinking he’s finally done with Doc.

B Story
He hangs out with Debora at a laundromat that has unrealisitically colorful laundry spinning around in the dryers. She says her dream is to get on I-20 in a car she can’t afford, following a plan she doesn’t have, and just keep going. He likes this dream, but he still has his foster father to take care of.

The old man suggests that Baby become a pizza delivery boy, because he might as well bring people joy with his driving. He seems to enjoy it, and it pays okay, what with tips for bringing the pizza quickly. We see him sorting out wads of wrinkled bills that don’t much resemble the tidy packs Doc pays him with.

Baby saves up his pizza money to take Debora to a fancy restaurant one of the thieves had referred to as the “wine-ing-est, dining-est” place in town.

Midpoint
After Baby and Debora finish their meal and it’s time to pay the bill, Baby is told that someone else has already picked up his check. It’s Doc, who takes him aside and tells him that he can keep driving, or he can have his legs broken and everyone he loves killed; not having much choice, Baby says “the first thing”.

Doc also shows up at his building and reminds him how easy it would be for him to mess with him.

Baby calls Debora just to hear her voice, explaining dejectedly that he has to drive again after all.

Bad Guys Close In
Doc makes Baby visit the post office with his nephew to case the joint. Hoping to make it big, he wants to steal boxes of blank money orders for a change. The nephew does a better job of playing cool and also of registering the key bits of information Doc wants about the place. Baby, meanwhile, worries about whether the nice cashier is going to get killed.

I think the post office heist is supposed to involve the same thieves from a the first job we saw in the movie, which means Doc is breaking his own rule, which seems like a bad idea.

Then there’s something about going to see a butcher who sells expensive meats. That’s about when the screen stopped working. I gather—from subsequent gunshot sounds—that the meeting with the butcher, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not go well.

Bad Guys Close In, Continued (Just a Guess!)
There are no law-enforcement characters in the movie, so it’s not as if some specific detective is going to catch up with this gang. Perhaps what happens is that Baby gets scared and runs away, leaving Doc’s mission uncompleted, perhaps in a way that could lead back to Doc. Maybe he’s detained for questioning by some cops who think he looks like the getaway driver they’ve been seeking. Possibly during the botched meeting with the butcher, Baby runs out of pairs of sunglasses and lets himself be seen by a security camera.

All Is Lost (Just a Guess!)
Some of Doc’s threats become reality, though probably not the leg-breaking one, because Baby is protected by the Shield of Hollywood. The foster father is probably toast, though. Ditto the stash of cash Baby’s been hiding under the floorboards in their living room. Maximum emotional impact hasn’t been achieved until the girlfriend finds out he’s a criminal, and repudiates him. Maybe his iPods, which keep his tinnitus at bay, get taken from him, too.

Dark Night of the Soul (Just a Guess!)
Where does Baby meditate on this whole sorry state of affairs? Maybe he’s sitting in jail (too boring), or looking out over the city (too pretty), or driving around furiously in a car (not very meditative), or looking down on a junkyard full of derelict cars (fitting, but maybe too repetitive), and he has no money, no family, and no girl—and it’s not fair!

What lesson has he learnt from Debora, or about himself in the course of all this, that would give him insight as to how to proceed? Maybe he’s learned that he’s not better than other people—he got into the mess with Doc because he was stealing cars—because everyone makes mistakes. At any rate, he still wants to keep driving, and he still wants to share his music with Debora, and now he’s angrier than ever at Doc, but now he has to actually do something to prove himself.

Break Into Three (Just a Guess!)
He carries a tape recorder with him all the time. Maybe he listens to Debora’s voice, which comforts him even though she’s not around. Then he realizes he has recordings of the thieves’ voices, and presumably Doc’s voice, too, which can use to manipulate them somehow. His foster father’s apartment, where he has all that recording equipment, is probably still intact, though it has probably been ransacked or even bloodied.

Finale (Just a Guess!)
Maybe Doc’s post-office job is still on, despite whatever happened with the butcher, and Baby has been punished by Doc for some kind of failure but still has to help. At any rate, the thieves, and finally even Doc, fall into Baby’s multi-part trap, which absolutely must involve a car chase, and some tense-but-awesome musical synchronization. Presumably Baby turns himself in, which exonerates him in Debora’s eyes, and gets his freedom in exchange for betraying the gang. He doesn’t get a big pile of money; maybe just a car or enough money to buy one.

Final Image (Just a Guess!)
Baby and Debora are driving into the sunset on I-20 in a cute vintage car, singing along to a song about “baby”.

Doc totally looks like…

…Harold Finch from Person of Interest (albeit with a less colorful tie).

Kevin Spacey totally looks like Phil Coulson.

Kevin Spacey (2008), Clark Gregg (2012)