Review: Baby Driver

 

From the get go, Baby Driver straps you in and doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. It’s a tremendously enjoyable and expertly executed masterclass in filmmaking. Baby’s journey is an ode to musicals, fast-paced heist movies, and old fashioned “us against the world” love stories. It successfully blends all aspects of the craft to create a film that takes the crown for providing me with the biggest smile-inducing experience I’ve had in a cinema for a long time (knocking off Dwayne Johnson’s “keep waiting, bitch” moment in the recently released Fast 8).

Edgar Wright’s love letter to the car chase films of yesteryear begins as it means to continue: a tough feat for a film of this genre. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he started off with a steadily paced expositive introduction. But Wright’s tenacity pays off as he jump starts the show by hitting us straight away with action. Immediately, Baby Driver makes sure the audience is in no doubt regarding what they should expect. The film oozes class, wit, and a relentless sense of fun.

We’re introduced to Baby, the getaway driver to Kevin Spacey’s crime lord character, Doc. Baby, who has tinnitus and therefore has to constantly listen to music in order to block out the high pitched tone, is dutifully carrying out his role and waits patiently (whilst listening to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s track Bellbottoms) for the rest of his heist gang so he can whisk them away. I was getting a Steve McQueen vibe from Baby, who exhibits an aura of carefree and effortless cool.

After the opening car chase – which had me thinking back to H. B. Halicky’s 1974 film, Gone In 60 Seconds – Ansel Elgort swaggers back onto the screen as the eponymous Baby, displaying McQueen’s Great Escape level of nonchalant smoothness. If the film hadn’t already won me over with its imaginative, rubber burning opening, the warm down unquestionably did. At this point I had to do a sensory double take: Baby makes his way down the street, the sound of Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle filling the air around him. And indeed… the diegetic sounds are choreographed with the music, and not just for the early parts of the film. Every footstep, gunshot, and exhaust burst in beautiful unison with the soundtrack. The smile on my face never faded. Here is a director who knows exactly what he’s doing. Wright both directed and wrote, demonstrating complete confidence in his chosen filmic techniques. Everything is perfectly timed, every toe tap, tug of the handbrake… everything down to the last gunfight. The triggers being pulled in time with Hocus Pocus by Focus just felt so delightfully right.

As for the soundtrack, it’s absolutely sublime; from Kashmere Stage Band, to a cheeky bit of Blur, and ending in Simon & Garfunkel’s Baby Driver. Watching and listening to the film felt like being in heaven. There was rarely a moment when a tune wasn’t playing in the background, or on Baby’s iPod. And when there was a respite, the audience is reminded of the primary symptom of tinnitus which made me yearn for the next song.

I can’t single out a specific aspect of the production for particular critique, as they all worked so well together. Take away one, and the film crumbles. Edgar Wright’s direction, Amos and Machliss’ editing, and the choreography by Ryan Heffington all contribute to create a film unlike any other. The film moves at a pleasingly steady pace, and everything felt incredibly polished and deliberate. The visuals are very clean, with one scene set in a laundromat filled with only primary and bright colours, lending a helping hand to the film’s playful tone. Wright, who arguably could now be seen as an auteur, brings his trademark fast cut over from his Cornetto Trilogy, and it is a testament to his work. It has yet to become tiresome. Even after multiple viewings of Hot Fuzz, and of course this film, it is still a genuine delight to see. Again, it provides a sense of fun, but also serves as a novel way to progress the narrative.

The supporting cast round out an incredibly well thought out narrative. Each of them is rendered confused in Baby’s incessant need to find the perfect song for each scenario and heist, and each provides a conflict in the story. There are no throwaway characters (there’s even a one-second cameo from Noel Fielding… kind of) and they all lend a gravitas to Baby’s situation. Subtlety farcical and stereotypical, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx’s characters are a joy to watch, and make complete sense in the universe. Kevin Spacey is once again great, of course. And Lily James, who plays Debora, Baby’s love interest and ultimately his personified epiphany, provides an elegant calm and reason for the direction Baby decides to take his life.

B.A.B.Y Baby

There’s justification for why Baby is Doc’s getaway driver, and there’s justification for why, as certain people enter his life, he no longer wants to be under Doc’s employ. The story moves with conviction. The catalyst is introduced in a timely manner, in the form of someone whom Baby wants nothing more than to drive off into the sunset with; nothing but music and the open road to keep them company. And Baby does make it clear what his resolution is to be. We’re just lucky enough to be along for the ride.

Baby Driver feels like one sophisticated, inherently cool, and ferociously clever, fluid story. Just one long shot, without being an actual long shot. Like a book, where you turn the page and the flow of the words continues. Like a perfect song, a musical journey that ends in a crescendo. The script is minimal, but every line has a purpose. The narrative is a basic love story, but everything encompassing Baby’s tale works so perfectly. The tense and inventive car chases, the fantastical choreography with the soundtrack, and the ensemble cast all work together to create a seductively cool movie.

Dare I ask… is this a perfect film? A few motion pictures are deliberated over when discussing this question; Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life. The general consensus places these curated few on a golden pedestal. And I’m going to say it: Baby Driver is a contemporary masterpiece and should be placed amongst them. The level of polish and thought that’s ever-present throughout every scene in Baby Driver ensures that the film effortlessly earns every word of praise it’s going to get. Nothing is accidental, every breath and tire squeal seems so expertly thought out and perfectly placed in each scene. Baby Driver is a film I will watch many times over, and I can easily say it’s one of the best films I’ve seen.

5

Qualitative rating

Baby Driver oozes cool from every pore. A perfect mix of suave, intelligence, and fantastical adventure. Edgar Wright delivers a spellbinding modern classic and breathes life into what otherwise would have been a simple love story. Baby Driver deserves your full and complete attention.

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Written by:

Editor In Chief at The Idle Critic, Cinematographer, husband, dreaming of a bygone era, caught in a Champagne Supernova, sometimes awake. - joseph@theidlecritic.co.uk