Cinema Review: ‘Baby Driver’

Directed and Written by: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort. Lily James. Jon Hamm. Eiza González. Jon Bernthal. Kevin Spacey. Jamie Foxx.

Music by: Steven Price

Duration: 113 Minutes

 

I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright. Growing up watching Spaced and enjoying the Cornetto Trilogy as well as the fabulous and downright tragically undervalued Scott Pilgrim, here was a man who clearly just loves films. Celluloid seems to seep from his every pore, but in a good way. He seemed like a guy you would want to have a pint with after a marathon of some shamelessly fun action films that would make Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman proud. His new venture is one he has stated has been a dream of his to make for many years. It tells a story of a young man caught in a tangled web of sticky crime threads, forced to make his living as a getaway driver. Injured in a traumatic car accident and living with tinnitus, the one named ‘Baby’ drowns out the haunting hum with music to help his freakishly skillful driving abilities. So was this film worth the wait for Mr Wright and his audience?

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I can’t even keep the tension going on this one. Just watch this film, seriously close this window down on your device (i already have you view thanks, so i don’t mind!) and go view this movie. Baby Driver isn’t just a fun filled stylish experience with more swagger than Mick Jagger fresh off a bargain-filled shopping spree. It’s simply one of the most defining, genre splitting films this generation will ever see. If aliens invaded our planet and predictably myself and Amy Adams were placed in charge of communicating with them, Baby Driver is what i would show them to explain why we even make films. A gloriously sleek and wildly enjoyable feast for the senses that makes most other films seem like two dimensional cheap and bland buffets.

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The music is the focus of this cinematic treat but it is a great film in every right. The cast is marvelous, their nicknames real names, words and movements so deliberate and meticulous. Baby is an innocent as his name, a ‘good kid’ in an impossible situation. The purity and naivety in his simplistic speech and elaborate dancing. His inherent fear is masked in survivalist and feigned apathy, what other criminals see as him being “cool” is simply Baby stuck in a world he shouldn’t be in. His silent relationship with Joe oddly deep and compelling in it’s sign language, affection and baby becoming more like his in later parts. Lily James is carved from purest American apple pie, adorably sweet and lovable but with independent strength and much more than just a prize for the hero. Also there are interesting connotations to Baby’s mother involved. Kevin Spacey is simply having the time of his life while Jon Hamm and Eiza González range from oddly endearing and amiable to searingly intense with a simple change of the gears (sorry, first car pun). Jamie Foxx is the erratically and infuriatingly satisfying to watch in possibly his best performance to date for me. His famously smooth tones a honey glaze on the poisonous words he sneers at people, a polar opposite to our hero. The only down side is that I would have liked to have seen more of Jon Bernthal’s ‘Griff’, enjoyable in his brief stint.

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Baby has a quiet strength, the first amazing car chase a fine example, his allies are tough men and women but helplessly in his hands. They look confused and scared then in awe as Baby unflinchingly contrasts them with his constant cool and skillful actions. The script is also brilliant, cool and witty with hints of B-Movie noir and self-awareness but never convoluted. There are cheesy one liners and hilarious quips but it is very different from his previous comedy films, this is a dramatic film and that is never undermined. The tone is clear and set from start to finish. Edgar Wright has an ability to cram huge details and subtle references in his dialogue without ever seeming forced or basically a smart-arse. They are always tongue in cheek and unrelentingly impossible to not appreciate. Whether it’s Darling’s real name or fitting nicknames in normal dialogue such as ‘Your buddy’s here’, every thing is well planned and effective. Using TV lines is also brilliant and an endearing crutch for our main star. I traditionally hate films endings, there are probably more illnesses i like than film endings in this world and yet baby Driver’s ending is fitting, satisfying and apt.

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The music. Oh the music. Almost the longest music video you will ever watch, the soundtrack isn’t just a tool in this movie it’s the engine roaring away under the hood. It’s the driving force. The range of music is impressive not relying on one tone or theme like say guardian Of The Galaxy it is sweeping it it’s range. Every song frames the scenes with its mood, tempo, contrast or lyrics. At college we learned about diegetic sound, the sound from the world of the film or non-diegetic sound that is added from the outside world. All the sound is diegetic here and affects the scenes we see, volume dips when an ear bud is removed, songs restart or skip with baby’s actions, tinnitus whines over the songs with a flick to the ear. Car lights hum and crackle, door alarms chime and engines bellow with the cars becoming almost characters themselves. The films will make you want to drive and shred guitars, possibly all at the same illegal time.

Sounds from Baby and others around him all blend in time with the music, gunshots, explosions, footsteps or even counting money. The tempo of the film and characters a willing slave to the soundtrack. The intro heist is a wonderful sequence, the car instantly shown as an extension of Baby as he basically dances with it. His first coffee run a film studies lecturer’s wet dream and effectively more of a musical routine than even the brilliant La-La Land. A ballet of street choreography and with words from the song lyrics appearing in Baby’s surroundings, an achingly good continuous shot. Every character or object is an instrument in this city-wide Altlanta orchestra. The music never feels like a gimmick though always utilised well and never overwhelming the film as a medium, It’s who baby is. He is our super hero, shades are his cape, the car his weapon and the iPod his shield.

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Every frame is an oil painting, you could use nearly every frame as a poster for this film bordering on the point of becoming absurd. the one yellow tape in a collage of Baby’s social awkwardness and attempts to connect with the world he blocks out. The action is fairly sparse but the excitement and tension never dull, chase scenes are superb whether on foot or rubber. The editing is sublime, in all his films Wright favours rapid shots that show events unfolding, keys being grabbed, doors swinging and here is no different yet now it’s constantly in time with the eternal music. No shot is wasted and every cut in time with a varying musical beat. This is a well woven together blanket of film that you will gladly roll yourself up in and simply relax.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough, i only fail to communicate why. With a movie that uses editing, lighting, music, acting, speech, movement and more so perfectly, mere words seem a little feeble in doing it justice. This heist, musical, romantic, comedy drama is frankly the most fun your eyes and ears and imagination will have at the cinema for a long time. Treat them.

The Verdict: Taking on and handily conquering every facet of film making, this isn’t just Edgar Wright at the top of his game but a movie at the top of it’s industry.

5/5

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