It’s not often that you take your seat in a packed cinema of eager film fans and within 10 minutes find yourself hearing audible cries of delight praising the movie’s director by name, but that’s just what happened with Baby Driver. Oh Edgar, you truly have created a gem of a summer flick.
The fact that we haven’t had an Edgar Wright film since The World’s End — partly due to the whole Ant-Man fiasco at Marvel — is a tragedy. But oh boy, was it worth the wait. Baby Driver is a new high for Wright in what has already been a remarkable career predicated on fast cuts and witty visual jokes.
Ansel Elgort’s Baby is an earbuds-wearing getaway driver who constantly listens to music in an effort to drown out the ringing in his ears caused by a childhood accident, but he’s done with the criminal life overseen by Kevin Spacey’s head honcho Doc that he’s known for his entire adult life. When he meets sweet waitress Debora (Lily James) at a ’50s-style diner, his mind’s made up – it’s time to hit the road, head west in a car they can’t afford with a plan they don’t have.
Baby Driver’s largely a run-of-the-mill one-last-job narrative as Baby’s pulled into a final heist alongside Buddy and Darling, the ridiculously good-looking duo of Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez, and Bats, a shoot first, ask questions later madman played with relish by Jamie Foxx. But it’s propped up by the truly sweet romance between Baby and Debora and their shared love for music.
For all the talk and marketing of this being a ‘car movie’, there’s not a mention of horsepower or gearboxes; that striking red Subaru seen in the trailers is the most exotic car in the movie. Baby’s more often than not chucking a station wagon around the streets of Atlanta rather than a souped-up Nissan GTR. In fact, the film’s all about the music.
Known for being a true cinephile, Wright clearly also has a deep love for music of all genres. The 35-or-so-song soundtrack that fills Baby’s ears, and ours, ranges from The Damned to The Commodores and Queen to Danger Mouse, but it’s the way Wright marries the music with the visuals that is so incredibly impressive. Never has a film been so intrinsically linked to its soundtrack. Baby Driver is, without question, the best musical of the last decade.
Whether it’s the opening getaway set to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms as Baby first drums the steering wheel and plays with the windscreen wipers while miming along to the scuzz blues jam before tearing out of the city and down the freeway in a thrilling game of cops and robbers, or the perfectly choreographed warehouse shootout in which Wright syncs the sound of gunfire to Tequila, everything is perfectly, well, in tune.
The epitome of Wright’s focus on music and film comes not from a spectacular high-speed car chase, but instead from a casual stroll to the coffee shop. As Baby grooves through Atlanta’s downtown streets, he moves perfectly in time to Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shake, framed by one continuous steadicam shot. All the while, little snippets of the funky track’s lyrics pop up in shop windows and graffiti daubed on walls. And it’s this painstakingly planned out choreography of a two-minute or so scene that elicited the cries of “Oh Edgar!” in the cinema.
Sometimes you don’t need CGI-heavy shots of spaceships floating through space to be blown away by a movie. Sometimes it just takes one guy walking down the street.
Baby Driver is relentless; Wright’s hook is clear to see and he uses it with gusto throughout. Under another’s direction it could easily become tiresome, but under Wright’s stewardship, everything is a cinematic treat.
Whether it’s the manic chaos of a getaway gone wrong, a thrilling foot chase through a shopping mall or just a back-and-forth between Baby and his deaf, wheelchair-bound foster father via sign language, every scene leaves you wanting more and more.
Wright’s made the perfect summer popcorn movie. No sequels, no franchises; just a great idea nurtured over time with such care and craft to produce a perfect slice of escapism. Volume up, pedal down – Baby Driver is a high-speed thrill ride like no other and an unmissable cinema experience.