The much anticipated and newly celebrated Edgar Wright vehicle is rife with high octane, thrilling sequences that give The Fast and Furious franchise a serious run for their money. It’s funky, pop orientated soundtrack is delightfully infectious that rivals that of the mixtapes from Guardians Of The Galaxy and a solid, charismatic cast that all sink their teeth into a script that would make Quentin Tarantino blush, Baby Driver has established Edgar Wright as an auteur of his craft.
Through his filmography thus far, Wright as ventured into many genres, from Zom-Rom-Com to alien invasion. His signature, frenetic energy is pretty much always welcome because of his understanding of visual comedy, he takes the mundanities in everyday life and makes them somehow hilarious. His flair is similar to that of Matthew Vaughn or Guy Ritchie in their fast paced, exuberant attitude.
The genesis of Baby Driver came about when he was listening to ‘Bellbottoms’ by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and pondered on how effective it would be in a car chase. This idea stayed with him for many years and was further entertained when he directed the music video for Mint Royale’s ‘Blue Song’, the plot of which is similar to Baby Driver; a getaway driver who drives for bank robbers who listens to music through earphones.
Ansel Elgort’s Baby (that really is his name) is a cool but insular 20 something year old who is inseparable from his IPod. If this were set in the 80’s, he’d probably have a boom box instead.
When he isn’t doing dangerous but highly profitable jobs for Kevin Spacey’s Doc, he tends to his foster father who like him is deaf, only not quite to the same degree. Baby is crippled with tinnitus, a symptom that renders a person partially deaf through a ringing in the ears. He was forced into this way of life as he has to pay off a debt to Doc, although it doesn’t help when he is as gifted a driver as he is and Doc sees him as his ‘good luck charm’, he can pretty much do anything behind the wheel. Out of all the getaway drivers in cinema history like Ryan Gosling’s driver from ‘Drive’ or Nicolas Cage’s Memphis from ‘Gone in 60 seconds’, Baby is youngest of the bunch. During his getaways, his music library is a vital tool as a means of focus, as well as timing certain driving manouveres to stay in rhthym of the music both him and we the audience listen to.
In a diner that bears a childhood connection of sorts, Baby sits quietly listening to music that ranges from The Beach Boys to The Incredible Bongo Band. He’s stricken by Lily James’ Deborah and it isn’t long before she’s enticed by Baby’s mysterious but charming demeanour. With her sugary exterior and dreamy smile, she longs to ‘head west on 20, in a car she can’t afford with a plan she doesn’t have’. This stays with Baby and from then on in, we’re swept in their romance which could prove both Baby’s escape from his criminal activities but also his foil.
Thanks to a broad and creative stunt team and Wright’s assured direction, Baby Driver helms some of the greatest and most visceral car chases of recent memory. Much of it was thankfully built from practical effects which Wright himself as said has hardly any rigs, wires or green screen. There is some CGI as some of the stunts are a little ridiculous but thankfully its seamless and kept to a minimum.
The editing has much a part to play as the music and Wright’s use of editing has become a defining trait of his craft. Much of the sounds and actions are in sync with the music that is technically proficient, the sound mixing is top notch and only amplifies the movie’s relentless thrills and grooviness.
The cast across the board are fantastic, Kevin Spacey is his usual commanding self who I couldn’t help but feel he ought to wink at the camera because of his recent presence as Frank Underwood from ‘House of Cards’. Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx chew the scenery as Buddy and Bats respectively.
Foxx describes Bats as someone who ‘doesn’t respect consequences’ and is a constant compromise to the gang’s activities, he’s often the scariest one in the room. Elgort has a star making turn here, he lends a certain lean physicality and sweet charm to the role. He convinces us that Baby doesn’t really suit this lifestyle, as evidenced when he’s surrounded by those who indulge in violence.
The movie doesn’t have much thematic depth going on, or if there is, it’s not that recognisable because of the sheer enthusiasm and wild drive the movie has. In terms of what the movie could offer us for the long term, it reminds us that we need something or someone to care for, no matter how grim or dull things get.
I saw this in D-BOX and it’s by far the best time I’ve had using it. it made the experience all the more immersive. The first and third act are the film’s most heart pounding, even with the second act where it fleshes out the characters more, it never feels like it’s foot’s off the pedal, we listen to what Baby listens to.
I mentioned earlier how this film (if his earlier work hasn’t already), established Wright as an auteur. Like Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, I sensed Wright’s control over virtually every aspect from the cinematography, editing, music, stunts etc. Some the sequences feel music video-esque, it made the songs cool again, just like Tarantino did with ‘Pulp Fiction’.
This is the first film this year I can proudly call one of my favourites and has cult classic potential, it may even be Wright’s magnum opus. It was funny, intense, cool, sly and briskly paced that all factor in it’s rewatchability.
Like my buddy Rick mentioned in his analysis, go see this baby.