Baby Driver - Edgar Wright
If you really need me to introduce you to Edgar Wright, you’ve been fucking up for the past 10 or so years. Although he made his first mark with Spaced, The Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) are what brought him to the attention of a wider audience. These three films not only show that he is a competent filmmaker, but also proved him to be one of the only directors to use filmic techniques to convey comedy rather than placing the burden solely on the cast. His style only grew more effective as the years went by, bringing slog after slog of comedies cashing in on the latest stand-up or SNL talents. Although only one of the Hot Fuzz gave a nod to big-budget action, Wright often expressed a desire to direct more action, and having seen how well he balances raw excitement with slapstick comedy, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a similar project. Enter Baby Driver.
Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a young guy with tinnitus who drowns the ringing in his ears with excessive amounts of music while tearing through the city as a getaway driver. Baby does the work to repay Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, when he stole Doc’s car and wrecked it along with a trunkload of merchandise. His debt nearly repaid, he happens to meet a woman named Debora (Lily James) at the local diner. Later, Doc offers Baby another job, and this time he takes it all.
From the first fucking second, you know this is going to be one hell of a time. Baby pulls up to the curb outside bank with “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion playing, and the the action that follows is totally in sync with the song right to the end, marking a successful job. Even in my euphoric state, watching Elgort drift and trick around every obstacle from behind the wheel, it was clear to me that the track isn’t manipulated to fit the scene. Despite all the fast cuts, it's hard to say they detract from the experience when they action remains so clear and concise. And what makes Wright’s films feel so damn exciting is the mobility in the camera. Not afraid to circle or swing around in the heat of the moment, whether in the midst of a car shade or an open firefight, it adds an extra shot of energy to scene. There are very few steady shots overall, and those scenes shot from a tripod or featuring a more traditional, non-diegetic score are rare, conveying Baby’s discomfort with the whole enterprise. You may notice a slight ringing behind certain scenes, too. Run-of-the-mill scenes of the cast doing nothing more than moving across the screen are transformed into choreographed pseudo-dance by the lively score and soundtrack, so that the movie often feels like it’s only a step away from going full musical. It's these little details very few will notice that makes Edgar Wright such an excellent director, and in turn, make Baby Driver so exhilarating.
I’ve never seen an Ansel Elgort film before or listened to any of his music, but the guy portrays Baby with subtlety and nuance. It’s not Oscar-level, but the role doesn’t demand a performance of that caliber. That goes for the rest of the cast, too, from Jon Bernthal to Eiza González: everyone knows their part and plays is well. As for Jon Hamm--watching him death-stare straight through the back of someone’s skull is intimidating, to say the least.
If for some reason you’re an idiot like me and haven’t seen this after three weeks in theater, go. It's a really easy decision to make, even if you or a friend aren’t really looking for a big action movie. I don’t see it as a niche film because it’s near impossible not to find some enjoyment in its light and fun mood. All in all, Baby Driver is going to be butting heads with John Wick 2 as my favorite of the year: each have their own unique style and a level of appreciation for crafting action, and it would take someone putting a gun to my head for me to decide which I enjoy more. Like I said, it's been out for three weeks and may be heading out of theaters as early as next week. Don’t let it slip by.
- Alex B.
"Curtains" is where you can catch movie reviews by the Metal Lifestyle staff.