Two films, two usually silent main characters, two British-born actresses as love interests, and two super awesome jackets. Both Drive and Baby Driver are among my favorite films of all time, with their immense style, amazing direction, top-notch editing, and truly thrilling action.
However, the debate rages on about which of the two films is better, the 2011 Ryan Gosling vehicle or the 2017 Ansel Elgort film. Now, while I do have a preference, I decided to see examine them in five key categories to see what was truly the best. Those five categories are storytelling, acting, characters, visuals, and overall enjoyability. All there is left to do is compare the two, and now it’s time for our first ever Celluloid Clash.
Storytelling: Round One
First up in this battle of the getaway drivers, we have the topic of storytelling. Now, both films tell the story quite well. They’re competent, introduce everything they need to, close up most things nicely, and still leave a little bit of room for a sequel. With Drive, written by Hossein Amini, the story is much darker than it’s opponent and it embraces that.
Most of the action is extremely violent and the dialogue is somber and ponderous. On the flip side of that, Baby Driver, written by Edgar Wright, is much more lighthearted and fun, focusing more on the style over the substance. That’s not saying that Baby Driver doesn’t have it’s darker moments, but it has a lot more comedy than Drive. Heck, it was nominated in the “Best Actor – Comedy or Musical” at the Golden Globes back in 2018. Drive was also nominated in an acting field at the Globes when Albert Brooks was up for “Best Supporting Actor” for his chilling performance as Bernie Rose.
Now, back to the storytelling, while the two films tackle a similar subject matter (a getaway driver who listens to music falls in love, tries to get out of the business for love, has one more job until he can get out, the job goes wrong, then he kinda escapes the life of crime with a somewhat ambiguous ending) they go through very different ways of doing it.
Comparing the two is like asking “What would you like to eat, a well done steak, darker and tough on the inside, or a cake that we placed some rocks in, that way we can bring you back into the real world, where you don’t always get what you want?” In this case, I’m going to take the steak, just because of its consistency in tone.
Characters: Round Two
Now both films have memorable, yet strikingly similar characters. There’s a silent protagonist with a cool jacket (Driver-Baby), a blonde love interest (Irene-Deborah), a motormouth mentor/boss (Shannon-Doc), a femme fatale (Blanche-Darling), a brutish criminal with a New York accent (Nino-Griff), and a dark haired male romantic (Standard-Buddy).
Of course those are all super broad caricatures of what the characters really are, but I do find it amusing to see the similarities that the characters have. In all actuality, while the characters are similar, there is one major difference in them, that being the fleshing out of them. For example, what could I tell you about Baby? I could tell you that he loves music, is an incredible driver, orphan, loves his father figure, loves his “girlfriend”, and is a fairly gullible person. What can I tell you about Driver? Well, for one thing, I can’t even tell you his name, which is never said in the movie a la Fight Club.
All in all, there isn’t much we actually know about the characters. What could someone tell me about Irene, or Shannon, or Blanche? Not a whole lot compared to what we’re told about the characters in Baby Driver. We know Doc, we know Buddy, we know Darling. Now, am I saying we have to know every little detail with characters? No, but there is a line between not telling us about the characters, and leaving a hazy mystery as to who the characters are and have been. Baby Driver falls on the right side of the line.
Winner: Baby Driver
Acting: Round Three
This will probably be one of the more difficult ones to decide as both films have tremendously talented casts. Ryan Gosling, Ansel Elgort, Carey Mulligan, Lily James, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Ron Perlman, Jon Bernthal, and that other guy are all great actors and put their best performances on show here. Now, when most people think Drive, they think of Ryan Gosling’s incredible performance, but for me the best performance in that movie is certainly Albert Brooks downright evil performance of Bernie Rose.
The cruelty and pure villainy that Brooks showcases is haunting. The closest thing that Baby Driver has to this is… oh boy… Kevin Spacey. Ignoring the super awful things that he did, he is really good in the movie. Nowhere near the level that Brooks gets to, but he’s probably the closest that Baby Driver has. Both casts do extraordinary work in their respective movies, but even with the rest of the cast of Baby Driver doing fantastic, it can’t hit Albert Brooks.
Visuals: Round Four
… what do you want me to say? Edgar Wright directed one of these movies, we already know that one’s going to win. That’s like a what movies has the most cheesy special effects and having Robert Rodriguez be one of the people on the list, we know who wins. Okay, I guess I’ll go into the visuals just so I can talk about just how good Baby Driver looks.
Edgar Wright is a master of visual comedy. Looking at his other films such as The World’s End, Scott Pilgrim, and Hot Fuzz, you can tell Wright is a master of the medium. From the cinematography to the editing, Baby Driver is gorgeous. Dunkirk is good, but it didn’t deserve those Oscars. Drive still has cool visuals, especially when it comes to the editing, but it just doesn’t compare. This is certainly the easiest one so far.
Winner: Baby Driver
Enjoyability: Round 5
Enjoyability is the main thing most people look for when they go to a movie. Most people don’t care for the sound editing or the costume design. They just care how the film made them feel, and that’s what this category is all about. Which of these films was the most fun to watch? Which of these films have the ability to be rewatched? For me, it’s an obvious choice. One of these movies is a super fun, action packed thrill ride with some great comedy and gorgeous visuals.
The other is a dark and gritty, slow burn action film with some of the best performances of the last decade. However, if it comes down to if one of these is on HBO and the other is on Starz at the exact same time, I’m going to watch Baby Driver. While I do love Drive, heck it’s my sixth favorite movie ever made, it’s a really tough movie to watch. I love that opening scene, with a great monologue from Gosling along with really fantastic action. However, it is just such a dark movie with brutal violence.
Not to say that Baby Driver isn’t too dark, but it certainly is a much lighter and happier time, with a more optimistic ending (That being said, I do know that the ending is actually debated on being a dream sequence or not). Nevertheless, Baby Driver is a super enjoyable time so it gets the fifth and final point.
Winner: Baby Driver
Final Score: Baby Driver 3 – Drive 2
That was fun. Who doesn’t love comparing two movies which have similarities in both story and overall quality? Once again, I want to say I really love both of these movies. Both of them are actually in my top 10 all time and are among my top 5 action films.
Anyway, I’m curious to see if you readers have any suggestions for future Celluloid Clashes? Maybe a duel of the Aladdin’s, both good and Guy Ritchie. Maybe a battle of Jordan Peele, Us v Get Out. Heck, how about a battle of more than 2? Avengers 4 will come out soon! However, I leave that to you, the reader. This has been Celluloid Clash.