As a die-hard fan of Edgar Wright’s movies, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as well as the amazing TV show Spaced, I naturally had high expectations for his latest film, Baby Driver. Maybe even too high.
Once I got over myself however, I saw it for what it was: a whip-smart thrilling and most of all fun American-crime-drama-cum-car-chase musical that I couldn’t help but tap my feet in time to.
This review was very nearly completely different.
Was he slow?
Ever since I stumbled across Spaced back in 1999, I’ve been a huge fan of Edgar Wright. I’ve loved every one of his projects to various degrees, with the absolute pinnacle being when I attended a special preview screening of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World during San Diego Comic Con in 2010, introduced by the director and his cast. Outside the unique circumstances, I absolutely adored that movie’s style, humour and music. Every film after that has a lot to live up to.
At first, I didn’t think Baby Driver quite measured up.
A combination of unrealistic expectations and unfamiliarity with some of the soundtrack, left me somewhat disappointed the first time I took Baby Driver for a spin.
I was, obviously, wrong.
(You can even listen to that wrong opinion on the McYapandfries movie podcast recorded directly after the screening here).
Right from it’s opening, a riff on the music video that serves as its inspiration, it’s clear that Baby Driver marches to the beat of a very different drum. Literally.
Introduced lip-syncing along to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion while waiting for a heist to go down, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a reluctant, but incredibly gifted getaway driver. To help him drown out the tinnitus he incurred as a child, as well as provide the audience with a banging diagetic soundtrack, Baby constantly listens to music on a range of iPod’s, usually to the annoyance of his partners in crime.
With a debt to repay to Kevin Spacey’s wisecracking but threatening criminal ringleader Doc, Baby drives a number of criminal crews to work off the debt. As the long awaited end of his criminal career approaches however, it becomes increasingly obvious that Baby’s not going to be able to get out with clean hands or a clean conscience, and that’s before you factor in the complications raised by falling in with local waitress Debora.
Too fast too die
Directing from his own script, all the standard Wright flourishes are present and correct: witty dialog, fast paced editing, sudden jokes and unexpected visual touches that remind you just how exacting a filmmaker he is but this time Music is even more important. While Wright himself described Scott Pilgrim as a musical only the characters fought instead of sang, the genre has even more claim to Baby Driver.
Music accompanies almost every single scene of the film literally propelling the action. Apart from a few sections where Baby is deprived of his music, the absence reinforcing the action on screen, the whole movie takes place in time with the score and it manages to do this without ever coming across as unnatural or robotic. It’s more noticeable and particularly effective during ting the car chases and gun fights but it’s always there in the background. Wright’s assembled a suitably eclectic soundtrack listing too and despite trying not to, I found myself tapping my feet in time with the music again and again. You can even check it out for yourself on Spotify here, but I’d recommend you watch the movie first.
When it comes to those car chases, Baby Driver is no slouch. Eschewing much of the over the top (yet enjoyable) absurdity of the Fast and Furious franchise and Vin Diesel’s continued attempts to convince audiences that cars can fly, the action on the streets in Baby Driver is far more grounded, but no less thrilling. You won’t find Baby jumping supercars between skyscrapers but the way he slides a Subaru around corners sideways is just as exciting.
That’s not to say that it’s just all action and music. Wright’s assembled a stellar cast and gets some fantastic performances out of them. Despite playing a menacing crime boss Kevin Spacey gets to deliver some fantastically funny moments while Jamie Foxx’s “Bats” is a terrifying creation. A thief who “does drugs to support his crime habit”, Foxx gives the impression that Bat’s is liable to snap at moment’s notice and murder everyone.
All the players are great from Jon Hamm and Eiza González’s Bonny and Clyde style couple to smaller, yet still memorable roles for Jon Bernthal, Flea from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and veteran deaf actor CJ Jones. The central romance between Baby and Debora, didn’t quite sparkle for me as much as I’d like but it by no means drags things down. Ansel Elgort ably carries the film with his considerable charm and minimal dialogue and James does well to match him despite the smaller screen time.
Like this week’s other big release Dunkirk, Baby Driver also demands to be seen on the big screen, one with the best sound system you can find.
With a sense of fun and excitement, that amazing soundtrack and plenty of tricks in it’s trunk Baby Driver is another welcome entry in the Edgar Wright library, and one ride that is definitely worth taking for a spin.
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, CJ Jones
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Official Site here.