Edgar Wright is one of the people I blame for my current obsession with film. There are other people who are also at fault for causing a deep and almost creepy connection with the moving picture; Wes Anderson, The Coen Brothers and Peter Jackson are some other names, but none have done it in quite the same way that the cult director Wright has. I watched his show Spaced when I was 10; I saw Shaun of the Dead when I was 13 and when I watched Hot Fuzz, I couldn’t resist heading to Wells (which isn’t that far away from where I currently live) to replay the hectic final shoot out in my mind. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, got me into comic books and I grew up, a little, with The Worlds End. I have alway felt a deep connection with his films; despite them being a big deal they always felt personal, to Edgar Wright and to the person watching them. His new film, Baby Driver, is perhaps his first big Hollywood film so will it still be quintessentially Wright or has America changed it into something a little bit wrong (phew, I managed to shoehorn that joke in didn’t I).
Baby is the best getaway driver in the business, though he has two problems, he has tinnitus meaning that he constantly listens to music to drown out the hum in his ears, and he is in debt to Doc, a crime boss who blackmails him into performing jobs he doesn’t want to do. However, when Baby’s latest job goes sideways, he must rely on his tunes and his driving skills to avoid cops and criminals alike to get himself and girlfriend Debora out of Atlanta.
Technically Edgar Wright has always been an absolutely fantastic director, creating interesting visuals through stylistic camera work and energetic editing, and here in Baby Driver Wright knocks it out of the park. Baby Driver is a collection of the most exhilarating and inventive chase and action scenes, accentuated by a banging soundtrack full of tunes that will be part of your driving mix for years to come. I am a sucker for on beat editing, there is something about it that sends the right kind of signals to my brain, Baby Driver, has plenty of these, some obvious and some subtle rewards to those paying attention.
The story that Wright has penned, isn’t too shabby either. It has his signature humour that comes to a smoking screeching halt when it comes to the high-octane finale. It is clear in this film that Edgar Wright has grown up somewhat. There is still pastiche and homage, especially of those Bonnie and Clyde type films but, instead of relying on it, Wright has moved past it to create something wholly his own, a wonderful merge of car chase movie and musical, scored by the greatest soundtrack you need to buy.
This isn’t just Wright’s picture though, he is backed up by, Editor Paul Machliss, and cinematorgrapher, Bill Pope, who have been with Wright since Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. Together these three create a ballet of car crashes and gunfire that matches the visceral blood-bumping songs from bands like Focus, The Damned and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
This is the first film I have seen in a while where sound and vision were equally important. I don’t know who to credit as the sound designer on this film, but this choice of songs and the use of audio was masterful right until the end credits stopped rolling, so I have to shout the entire sound team who did something that could have been an experience in and of itself.
The cast is also spellbinding, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx are always value for money, but here it is almost impossible to describe how good each person is. Jamie Foxx as Bats is suitably unstable, a walking cliche of criminal swagger and robin hood mentality. Kevin Spacey’s Doc is, well it’s a Kevin Spacey part, and Jon Hamm is charismatic and terrifying all at once.
However, while these guys are a wonder to behold, this movie belongs to two people; Ansel Elgort as the titular Baby and Lily James as Debora. Lily James is a charismatic leading lady with an old school charm and energy that brings her character to life. She and Elgort have an absolutely captivating chemistry that brings the film together wonderfully especially at the end. Speaking of Elgort, Baby is a challenging part; he speaks very little so most of the acting comes in body language and looks and for the most part he does an amazing job juggling the two lives that Baby has to try to keep separate. He is at times sympathetic, bad-ass, incredibly charming and vulnerable, a hard enough combination to pull of at the best of times, but with little to no dialogue, it is a masterful performance.
People have been comparing this film to Drive, and I am loath to do that because Nicholas Winding Refn and Edgar Wright are two completely different directors, and Baby and the Driver are two completely different characters. I suppose there are similarities, but comparing and contrasting these two movies depreciates them both as they are both good films for different reasons.
I could go on gushing about Baby Driver but I won’t so I will end my review by stating three things, I have seen Baby Driver twice, I don’t do that very often and I can say that it was even better the second time around. Now if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.
You Can Watch Baby Driver in Cinemas now