DIR/WRI: Edgar Wright • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park • DOP: Bill Pope • ED: Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss • DES: Marcus Rowland • MUS: Steven Price • CAST: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm
His name is Baby. “B-A-B-Y, Baby”, and he is the fastest getaway driver for Atlanta’s elite criminal underbelly. Baby (Ansel Elgort) suffers from tinnitus as a result of a car crash during his childhood and he listens to music on various iPods to drown out his “hum in the drum”. He plays the right song with the right tempo to orchestrate getaways on behalf of Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) robbery teams. With songs by artists such as The Damned playing in his ears, Baby expertly negotiates these getaways in sync with the rhythm of the song and the specific robbery, knowing each successful robbery drives him nearer to freedom from Doc’s organisation. Baby then meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress in a local diner, and falls for both her and her musicality. However, any relationship with Debora is threatened when Baby is asked to complete one last job by Doc, but his motives are questioned by new gang member Bats (Jamie Foxx), who’s sceptical of Baby as a getaway driver and his true intentions.
Firstly, amongst the deluge of summer blockbuster and extended universe releases, Baby Driver is a breath of fresh cinematic air. Director Edgar Wright has captured this film intricately, especially with its use of music to capture a mood of a particular sequence. The music is also pivotal with the superb editing from Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, whom, along with Wright’s direction, can utilise a song such as ‘Easy’ by The Commodores within a particular sequence where the music is just one facet of the overall musicality and movement of the film. The actors are also acting alongside the film’s soundtrack and this assists in Wright capturing the suspense or a particular mood of what’s on screen.
Ansel Elgort effortlessly becomes Baby and his characterization throughout is balanced and also filled with personality when appropriate. Baby listens to the music through his earphones and Elgort then performs the song during the getaway scenes. He also brings to life both sides of Baby’s lives; one as the getaway driver and the other as a regular citizen attempting to live a normal life. Lily James also impresses as Debora, the diner waitress dreaming of driving away to a better life, who’s also reminiscent of the character of Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks. While these characters impress, one slight negative is that other ensemble cast members do not receive similar screen time when they deserved much more, such as Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal, and even Flea. The film’s middle act also disappoints as the pace fails to maintain its opening momentum, especially as certain cast members are substituted by Doc for both plot and robbery reasons.
Nevertheless, the visceral getaway and car chase scenes in the first and final acts are expertly-directed action scenes by Wright and an important highlight of Baby Driver. The collaboration between Wright and different technical departments reflects the crucial collaborative nature of the filmmaking process and every car sequence is an impressive blend of direction, acting, editing, and music supervision. There is also a shootout sequence that is tonally-similar to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, and again, each technical department stands out and impresses.
Music is a significant element of Baby’s life and the film itself. It probably won’t receive similar attention as the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy’s popular soundtrack, but the music sets the tone of the plot for the characters and the particular Atlanta life they live, and the film has to be in sync with its music. It is in sync, much like Edgar Wright and his collaborators.
Baby Driver may not stand out on top amongst the myriad of summer releases, although it fully deserves to become another revered addition to Edgar Wright’s oeuvre. There is nothing infantile about Baby Driver and it should be reckoned with this summer.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Baby Driver is released 28th June 2017