By Jack Dignan
It’s the coolest, most exciting and skillfully crafted movie so far this year. Baby Driver sees beloved director and nerdy cinephile Edgar Wright returning to the director’s chair for the first time since completing his Cornetto Trilogy in 2013’s The World’s End. It’s a return the world has been waiting for, and it’s a film far better than any of us deserve. Baby Driver, which is already out overseas and hits Australian theaters in just two weeks, is going to rock your world. See it fast. See it soon. And see it as many times as possible.
In the realm of an Edgar Wright film, anything is possible. Zombies can take over the world, small towns can be secret murderers, video games can come to life and aliens can be weird, blue-blooded mannequins. His films are often witty, stylized and completely deranged. I am most certainly a fan. Baby Driver sees Wright at his most skillful. It’s not only the best film of his career, but one of the best films of the year, and it all revolves around a plot you’re probably telling yourself “huh, that sounds familiar.” Trust me, it’s not. In fact, it’s very far from it, and when you watch the film, you’ll see why.
We follow a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort). He’s living a life he doesn’t want to live, working for a man he detests. Doc (Kevin Spacey) holds a debt against Baby, and Baby’s finally paid up. But when the going gets rough, Baby is pulled back in to the world he just left. It’s a world full of violence and robbery, and the complete polar opposite of the one he was able to freely experience for such a short time frame. On the outside, Baby meets Debora (Lilly James), and the two slowly fall in love. But love can’t last forever, and when Baby’s pulled back into his criminal ways, he’s willing to do everything he can to escape and drive off into the sunset with the woman he loves.
It’s an action packed musical fiasco as Baby escapes his current life while listening to his own personal mix tape. The character has tinnitus, a medical condition that causes a constant ringing to be heard day in and day out. There’s no escaping the noise. Quietness is a leisure he’s unable to experience, so the superior alternative is to drain it out with music 24/7. We see and hear the world from his point of view. Everything is edited and choreographed in time to the beat, as chosen via one of his many, many iPods. Right from the opening getaway sequence, you’ll be dancing, humming and lip syncing along with Baby as all the action is cut, maneuvered and stylized with the music.
The technique is most impressive during an uncut tracking shot early on into the film. It follows Baby as he walks down the street, listening to music and interacting with the surrounding environment. Words cannot do the shot justice. Wright has stepped his game up with this movie, and everything about it is a stylistic art form other directors dream of achieving. Steven Spielberg who? In fact, the most explosive sequence in this car-based movie isn’t even set in a car, but is instead a chase on foot, leaping and bounding through the crowded streets of Atlanta. Wright subverts genre conventions and makes everything his own. Characters come off one way, then flip around and reveal another side of them, and everything fits with the overarching tone.
Baby Driver is a movie that’s too good to be true. It’s an experience full of a-list talents, both on and off the screen, who have all come together to create one of the best movie going experiences you can ever have. It’s a sleek and stylish action comedy with more heart than in any of Wright’s earlier works combined. The central hook to Baby’s life isn’t from the car chases, although they are all incredibly impressive, but instead from his relation to Debora and their venture into the world of music. Elgort and James have excellent, natural chemistry. There’s a mutual understanding shared between the two, elevating their performances and tugging in an emotional twist. Later scenes will bring tears to your eyes and warmth to your heart.
As a matter of fact, there’s more drama and sincerity in Baby Driver than one might expect. When the comedy comes, it hits hard. A joke delivered by Kevin Spacey in the third act is an absolute knockout. But it’s the more serious, edge of your seat thrills that take centre stage, as well as the blossoming romance between two characters with dark pasts. You’re pulled into this world, the same way Baby is, and it’s a journey you’re never going to want to finish. Fiction has never been so exciting, breaking free of cinema’s boundaries and creating an unearthly, masterful movie joyride that you haven’t seen anything like before. Baby Driver has been Edgar Wright’s passion project for a long time, and it’s a wait that’s paid off.
This is filmmaking at its finest. From the music cues to the well-placed humour to the characterization to the genuine emotion, everything about the movie works. If grounded reality was what this film was going for, certain plot elements would feel like a bit of a stretch, but given the fantasy thematics weaved into the plot, you roll with everything and learn to accept it. The cast does a fantastic job at selling the world. Everyone is tremendous, from Jamie Foxx to John Hamm to Kevin Spacey to Eiza González and, of course, to our leads. They all hold respect to their designated characters and a fierce determination to deliver the best performance possible. Even John Bernthal, who appears for no more than five minutes, is great.
I really don’t know if I can think of something negative to say. It’s a riot of a movie, getting better and better with each passing scene and all leading up to a violent, shaking third act that’ll leave your jaw well and truly dropped. I sorely miss when I was watching this movie. You won’t find anything else remotely like it, or even nearly as impressive. If you like film, you’re going to love Baby Driver. See it as soon as possible. You’re only doing yourself a disservice by missing out.
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