Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm & Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Release Date: June 2017
Running Time: 113 mins
Synopsis: Baby, a music-loving orphan, also happens to be the prodigiously talented go-to getaway driver for heist mastermind Doc. With the perfect soundtrack picked out for each and every job, Baby ensures Doc’s violent, bank-robbing cronies – including Buddy, Bats and Darling – get in and out of Dodge before it’s too late. He’s not in it for the long haul though, hoping to nail one last job before riding off into the sunset with beautiful diner waitress Debora. Easier said than done.
Music plays a vital role in cinema, whether it is John Williams’ intense orchestral scores creating a sense of majesty over the Star Wars credits, or the effortlessly cool and obscure playlists that populate Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Music is meant to move audiences, make them feel a certain way or heighten emotions in certain scenes – often, this is meant to be an invisible craft and audiences aren’t meant to be actively aware of the aural manipulation taking place. With Baby Driver, director Edgar Wright is quite overt in establishing a connection between the action occurring on-screen and the film’s soundtrack with the audience hearing the music that is playing through lead character’s earphones at all times.
This unique synergy between the movement of its characters and the musical soundtrack results in some beautiful set-pieces ranging from the amazing one-shot walk to the coffee shop (reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead) to the simply glorious chase sequences that fuel the narrative of the movie. They might be the most intense car chases ever filmed, mostly due to the incorporation of Baby’s playlists as the soundtrack. For me, the most exhilarating moment of the film was when Baby was stripped of his car and forced to make his escape by foot. Equally as intense and hyperactive as the earlier car chases, it was another master class in directing movement from Edgar Wright, whose dynamic choreography has been present in all of his films.
Ansel Elgort plays the eponymous Baby, a youthful car thief turned getaway driver, who is permanently plugged into his iPod as a result of tinnitus. A man of few words, Elgort manages to convey the character through body language and actions, whether it is his goofiness as he dances down the street or his fearless attitude as he navigates the streets of Atlanta. Incredibly likeable without speaking more than a handful of words, Baby is the heart of the movie – a good guy forced into bad situations by worse people. Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, is the crooked father figure who manipulates Baby into committing these heists alongside a bevy of unhinged criminals including Jamie Foxx’s Bats and Jon Hamm’s Buddy. Wright manages to capture a real sense of unease as Baby is forced to rub shoulders with these volatile characters and there is a grim inevitability to the explosive chaos that awaits.
Lily James as appears as Baby’s love interest, the unusually-named Debora, a waitress with a heart-of-gold and a desire to roam. James plays the part with the right balance of naivety and practicality, mirroring Baby’s own position as an innocent in a dark world. There’s a timelessness and wholesome quality about their romance that feels ripped from the 1950s and the two have some great chemistry together. Baby Driver itself feels like a love letter to those classic car chase movies such as Bullitt, The French Connection and The Italian Job, and it was refreshing to find out that most of the film’s car chase sequences were done practically with little to no CGI used. With CGI used in almost all movie productions to conjure up fantastical scenes beyond imagination, the realism of actual stunt work provides an added sense of anxiety to the car chases that would have been lost if everything on the screen was made out of pixels.
Baby Driver is a whirlwind of a movie and much like Edgar Wright’s other films, it is packed full of Easter Eggs to enjoy upon a rewatch. Wright’s attention to detail is legendary and every shot feels personally curated and selected by the director to maximise the audience’s enjoyment. There’s a kinetic energy to the movie that persists throughout its near-two hour duration and Wright’s fingerprints are all over every scene; much like how Scott Pilgrim vs. The World felt like a living, breathing version of comic book upon it was based, Baby Driver feels like a movie-length music video. Almost every element of Baby Driver works perfectly in sync with each other, apart from the clunky redemption for Kevin Spacey’s Doc, which made no sense for his character given his nastiness up until that point.
Quirky, self-assured and replete with great music, Baby Driver manages to be a post-modern musical and a throwback to classic heist movies at the same time. It’s no surprise that the film won multiple awards for its editing, including a BAFTA, as it is such an engrossing experience. Firing on all cylinders and with a cast of champions, Baby Driver is one of those movies that has raced up the list of my all-time favourites and cements Edgar Wright’s position as a “must-see” director.