Edgar Wright’s latest is a pulse-pounding, toe-tapping, romantically-charged explosion of a film, and it might just be my favourite cinema experience so far this year.
Ever since the days of Spaced, Edgar Wright has treated us to his quirky and ever-so-slightly geeky view of the world we live in. More than that though, he’s proved time and time again how accomplished a director he is, now sitting proudly as one of our finest exports. Taking some inspiration from driving films of old such as The Driver & Bullitt, he manages to spin a tight tale that’s as much tender heart as it is burning rubber.
Baby is a revelation behind the wheel, drowning out his ‘hum in the drum’ and living his life to the beat of his own custom soundtracks. Reserved to a criminal life due to debt, he’s forced to act as getaway driver to the various heists set up by mob boss Doc. And he happens to be the best in the game. Thoughts of a life away from it all are accelerated when he strikes a chord with charming diner waitress Deborah.
People have called Baby Driver a modern day musical, a phrase that runs the risk of putting many a cinema goer off, but I struggle to argue with the sentiment having seen it. The music in Baby Driver is not just a cool collection of classic songs thrown in for good measure, it is instead the lifeblood of the entire film. From an opening credit sequence involving a dancing-walk to the coffee shop, we get an early sense of the extent that Wright is about to weave the audio with the visuals. Gun shots play out in time with the beat, dollar bill counting turns into a scratchy rhythm. It often feels less like directing, and more like choreography from Wright. Long, focused takes are balanced with sharply edited cuts to match the shifting tones of the soundtrack. The result is often exhilarating. We’re watching the world through Baby’s eyes but more importantly through his ears. When his headphones are in, so are ours, resulting in whole sections of dialogue being lip-read by character and audience alike.
This passion for music isn’t just surface level either. Baby himself is fascinated with audio, recording most conversations he’s privy to and chopping them up with musical samples to create strange mixtapes. It’s hard not to be impressed by the attention to detail.
As I eluded to in the intro, Baby Driver is about many things. Of course it’s an action film, and when it hits top speed you can really feel it. It has solid heist sequences, brilliant stunt work and isn’t shy of pulling the trigger. But for every shot to the face there is a tender moment of quiet. Baby’s living situation and childhood flashbacks hit softer notes and act as much needed breathing space to the chaos. It’s also hard not to draw comparisons to Bonnie and Clyde when observing the blossoming romance between Baby and Deborah (something that’s actually mentioned in one exchange of dialogue). Their youth and naivety are a stark contrast to the rest of Baby’s life experiences. It wouldn’t be an Edgar Wright film without some humourous moments peppered throughout the runtime either.
A film like this is completely dependant on its cast, and the players in this race are impressive across the board. Relatively unknown Ansel Elgort is great as Baby, he avoids coming across as a cocky prodigy. You’re always sympathetic to his plight whilst being impressed by his driving ability (and choice of music). Jamie Foxx is utterly threatening as heist king and murder-maestro Bats. His performance is gripping, when he casually informs you that “you don’t need to introduce Bats, everyone knows Bats” you believe him, and you hope he leaves you alone. John Hamm is also brilliant as Buddy, another crew member with a mysterious past and Bruce Banner levels of mood swings. Charming and quietly dangerous, he’s intimidating in his unpredictability. Kevin Spacey’s Doc oversees the proceedings, he barely needs to try when it comes to confidently creepy these days. Lily James also does a good job as the sweet, naive Deborah. Her chemistry with Baby is natural and infectious.
So we have a stellar cast, intriguing story, riveting action and ridiculously impressive musical stylings. Where does it all unravel? Well it doesn’t, i’m happy to say. In fact I struggle to think of an aspect of the film I didn’t like. I loved the insanity of Scott Pilgrim but I think I love Baby Driver more. And yes I’m aware just how iconic Shawn Of The Dead is, but give Baby Driver time to settle. I hadn’t left the cinema in such an exhilarated state since Mad Max: Fury Road and before that, The Raid.
It’s not like Edgar Wright needed to prove himself, but he has upped his game once again. Baby Driver is an action film with brains. It’s guaranteed to have a cult following, but it deserves so much more than that. A must see.
Watch it if you liked:
True Romance, Kingsman, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World