Edgar Wright gets behind the wheel of a film that will drive its way into the classics very quickly.
(Before we begin… I’ve never done this before but I feel here that I must. Don’t read this review before seeing the film, it genuinely will ruin the experience as there is no way to discuss Baby Driver without discussing the things that make it the film it is. If you have to read a review then I would suggest scrolling down, looking only at the score I give it, immediately booking tickets and then bookmark this page for afterwards. Trust me, you won’t regret it.)
Baby has been stealing cars since he was very young, after an accident he was involved in at an even younger age. Now he drives heist crews in and out of hits, all to the sound of whatever music fits best, he’s talented, reliable and quiet, unlike many of his criminal peers. Doc (Kevin Spacey) runs the heists, chooses the heisting crew members and makes sure to know everything he can about each of this crew members, Baby included. It’s a world full of guns, power, sex, violence and music, although for Baby, it’s a reluctant one.
It’s here that the film reveals the first of many surprises and that surprise is the depth of each one of its characters. Baby is not just a heist driver, he’s a talented driver with a debt to be repaid to Doc and a deaf adoptive father who he bonds with over music that his guardian feels through his speakers. Deborah is his love interest, but she’s also a struggling young woman with an equal love for music, working a dead-end job to try and get by because of her difficult circumstances. But it’s not just these core characters, it’s almost every single character in the film; they all have deep and complex shades to them and as a result their conflicts, passions and relationships feel incredibly genuine and tangible. As a result of this, the film’s build ups, tensions and pay offs are always perfectly paced and rightfully earned. And this barely scratches the surface of the characters portrayed in this film…
All of this would mean nothing if it wasn’t supported by a stellar cast but Wright has pulled out all the stops here to direct this incredible cast in equally incredible performances. Jamie Foxx is twitchy and violent, but honest and intuitive. Jon Hamm is likable and amenable, but loyal to a fault as Buddy. Lily James is innocent and trustable but bored and desperate for adventure. Her chemistry with Baby (Ansel Elgort) is so naturally flirtatious that the audience almost feels voyeuristic, at times, watching them develop their relationship. Kevin Spacey is utterly unnerving as Doc, grasping huge amounts of power with quiet precision. But it’s Elgort who is this band’s front man, charismatic from the word go, he is brimming with life, fired up by music but focused enough to always be a threat. He says only what he needs to, only when he has to and his actions, gestures and playlist do all the extra speaking necessary. If he isn’t picking up Oscars this year then the academy is blind, and likely deaf too.
But Baby Driver has another surprise up its sleeve, and the next one is its stylistic brilliance. In terms of the films visuals it is as diverse as it is stunning. It brings together influences from a wide range of genres and combines them at the perfect moments, often enhancing the tension or interactions between characters. There is colour everywhere throughout the film, often enhanced by gorgeous lighting and fluid camera movement. But it’s the soundtrack that sets this film truly apart. Baby’s choice of song is the vital framing device that sets the tone, pace and feel of a scene. But the scene also moves in tandem with the music; gunshots follow the rhythm of the drum beats, lyrics are working their way in to the background dialogue or briefly glimpsed as a clever part of the mise-en-scene. Stylistically Baby Driver is arguably closer to a musical than it is an action movie. It’s far more than style over substance; here style and substance go hand in hand to deliver a movie that’s fascinating to watch, but contains layers and layers of depth too.
Baby Driver is a triumph of a film, brimming with sheer brilliance in every aspect of its production. Vibrant, clever and profound all at the same time, it treats its audience with a huge amount of respect whilst keeping its cards close to its chest. It’s going to surprise you, it’s going to impress you and it’s going to connect with you all whilst looking and, even more importantly, sounding gorgeous. It could have easily been a film about driving, heists and little more, instead this is film making on a level that few can hope to achieve. Wright has taken a fantastic concept and, much like his protagonist, driven it to perfection.
This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.