Genre: Comedy, Action, Music
With a horror, a cop buddy film and a sci-fi all under his belt (as well as a sitcom and a musical – of sorts), postmodern maestro Edgar Wright tries his hand at a driving movie. Main character Baby is a young man who doesn’t say much, listens to music constantly (he has several iPods and incidentally, several pairs of shades) and is stuck way too deep in a criminal game he doesn’t want to be in. Part of a team masterminded by Kevin Spacey, Baby drives getaway cars for heists – but he dreams of heading west with Lily James, ‘in a car we can’t afford, with a plan we don’t have’. One last job and he’s out, right?
5 movies deep into his career – I don’t know why I was surprised to see the cinema fuller than I have in months (maybe it’s just surprising to see such a turnout for something so, well, good?!) – and this isn’t Spaced anymore, Wright has got a lot of money to play with. And it’s great to see the budget paying off so well – the truth is Edgar Wright’s filmmaking has never looked and felt so splendid. There are super long Steadicam shots, there is super slick editing (more subtle than in films like Shaun – now we feel like part of the action), and of course damn stylish car chases.
Wright loves to create hyper-real worlds and Baby Driver is no exception. Where Scott Pilgrim had video game effects, music is key here. In Baby’s world, (almost) everything is in time with music – making breakfast, buying lattes, even driving. When he’s driving the getaway car he picks exactly the right song for the job and wheels his whip in time with the music, even pausing to rewind it if there’s been a delay. This would almost be a gimmick if it didn’t work so convincingly – it fits a narrative where everything is seen or heard from Baby’s perspective – from the immorality of his criminal companions to Kevin Spacey’s voice over the rock ‘n’ roll in his earphones. It doesn’t weigh on you either – Wright knows when it’s time to stop messing around and be serious. As we approach the back end of the film, things get pretty intense (remember Hot Fuzz? Don’t be fooled into thinking Baby Driver will be as bright and cheerful as its opening credits). Its awesome chase scenes are accompanied by brutal stylized action, and driven (get it?) by countless nail-biting twists and turns.
Baby Driver is funny too. Its characters are all perfectly cast and perfectly poised to rile each other up in the most ludicrous ways, from Jamie Foxx’s ‘only man in the crew with mental problems’ to the couple that are constantly expressing public displays of affection. Jon Hamm’s Buddy is a guy who, when someone upsets his girl, ‘sees red, and the only thing you’ll be seeing – is black.’ Lines are delivered in a unique, film noir-influenced style which never ceases to be amusing.
Behind the humour, behind the action, behind the style, it’s unclear how much depth there is to these characters, but depth isn’t something Wright has totally excelled in. He’s chosen to focus on the comedy, the style and the impact, and reserve what depth there is for Baby’s central story. There are some emotional flashbacks (Baby wasn’t always the way he is), and some sweet scenes between he and Deborah (Lily James), which, considering they have only known each other for a brief period, are actually convincing.
Wright takes us to the movies purely for love of the movies, and it’s not just the self-reflexive style – and countless film references – that make it clear. The film’s romance, its music, its constant chuckles, everything from the glint of sunshine in a car window has been immaculately put together to craft pure Wrightian (can that be a word, please?) escapism. Why can’t all films be this good?