Baby Driver — Film Review
Edgar Wright has become one of a handful of star directors in recent years.
Some filmmakers’ work demands attention simply because of their back catalogue. Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg; audiences will go out to see their films simply because of who directed them.
With Baby Driver, Edgar Wright has firmly cemented himself in the star directors category.
This is a film by film lovers, for film lovers, blending music, stunning visuals, action choreography and an outstanding ensemble cast to create a cinematic experience that is simultaneously a throwback and something completely new.
Ansel Elgort plays Baby a young getaway driver pressured into a life of high-speed heists by crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). In a seamless blend of character and film-making style, Wright creates the character of Baby with a unique affliction.
Suffering from tinnitus, Baby listens to music via a pair of (carefully product placed) apple earbuds to drown out a constant drone. Putting the audience firmly in Baby’s shoes, the director has curated an eclectic soundtrack that is blended throughout the film. At times Baby will mime, or walk/dance along with his chosen track, sometimes gunshots and action are synced with the beat of the film’s jukebox.
This style is something that takes a while to get used to and, while innovative, there are moments when the film comes dangerously close to becoming a music video rather than a straightforward narrative.
Just when it’s getting a bit much, Wright brings everything back to earth with some fantastic performances from the central cast. Ansel Elgort brings a delicate balance of ‘impossibly cool’ and real world vulnerability to Baby that manages to keep the character grounded despite his, at times superhuman, abilities.
At the heart of the film is Baby’s relationship with Debora (Lily James) a waitress at a local dinner. The pair share some great on-screen chemistry that reminds me of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the Amazing Spider-Man films (by no means a bad thing). If this central (at times overly romanticised) pairing didn’t work, the whole film would fall flat. Lucky the two young leads, armed with some charming dialogue, are more than up to the task.
As his relationship with Debora grows, Baby’s life of crime catches up to him and it’s not long before things start getting tense, thanks mostly to Bats (Jamie Foxx), the obligatory ‘loose cannon’ of the crew.
I say obligatory, but Wrights’ ability to play with genre conventions and character archetypes should never be underestimated, things do not play out the way you think they would.
Every member of the ensemble does a great job of playing their roles perfectly without scene-stealing or grandstanding. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey; each one of those names is a leading actor you could build a film around. Here though they bring added gravitas and intensity to the more dramatic scenes, leaving Wright to do what he does best.
The director has always had an eye for kinetic action. In Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim and a standout scene in the underrated The World’s End, fight choreography and camera work go a long way to giving the director his signature style.
In Baby Driver though, Wright has a much bigger toy box to play with and it pays off spectacularly. These are some of the best car chase scenes you’ve seen in years, putting films like the Fast and Furious franchise to shame with pure, in-camera stunt work.
While the breathless pace of the films’ final act threatens to give the audience a bit of cinematic whiplash, the cast and director manage to give each character a satisfying arc, although not necessarily in the way you might expect.
Baby Driver is a love letter to car chase cinema and to heist movies (Wright has been very open about his influences even putting on a programme of his favourites at the BFI) but above all the film is a celebration of music. No matter what your personal taste, the soundtrack crosses musical boundaries and that is precisely the point.
In a summer full of reboots, crossovers and sequels, the action, musical, drama is a breath of fresh air and one no film fan should miss.
P.s. Special thanks to Odeon and their Screen Unseen promotion, allowing me to see the film at an advanced screening for only £5 — definitely an offer worth taking advantage of.