Director Edgar Wright
Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey
Edgar Wright is an auteur that never seems to have really received his due. Since bursting on the scene with Shaun of the Dead (2004), his films have been characterised by pop culture references, manic action, and a heavy reliance on music. Baby Driver marks a distilling of these traits, as Wright casts back to the 70s crime dramas for inspiration, and manages to burn some rubber.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is one of the best getaway drivers in the business. “Mozart in a go cart” as the brains behind the robberies, Doc (Kevin Spacey), refers to him. Which is why he’s a vital part of any heist planned, despite Baby’s habit of constantly listening to music, and standing aloof from the rest of the crew. However his debt to Doc is almost paid off, and Baby starts to dream of a world beyond crime. When he meets a waitress (Lily James) in a diner they forms an instant attraction, but one that could be the leverage to forcing Baby back into a life of crime. One last job, that might get them both killed.
Simply put, Baby Driver is an amazing feat. The soundtrack can be important for most films, but here it is the pulse that shapes a scene. Baby is constantly listening to music, to cover his tinnitus, so it is threaded into every scene, dictating the movement of the camera and the pace of the edit. Wright gives a master class on how to craft a film to music (seriously, this will be a movie watched in film studies in the future), but also delivers an enjoyable, witty, and tense action film.
You can see the DNA of the films that inspired Baby Driver (The Driver, Heat, True Romance), as well as seeing the traditional style of an Edgar Wright film (Scott Pilgrim vs The World, the Cornetto trilogy), but here it is made his own matured response. Wright has always been good at editing to the music, and creating an action sequence through rapid cuts, here he just refines it. The needle drops don’t break the mood, the rapid edits occur more organically, the shift between character development and action sequences aren’t jarring. There is a flow to this film, a rhythm that begins with the very first scene, and builds throughout. This is a film many years in the planning (as Wright’s recently revisited 2003 Mint Royale music video for Blue Song clearly demonstrates, by its close resemblance to Baby Driver’s opening sequence), and that dedication really does show.
All this is backed up by a cast that understands this and gives performances to match. Elgort (Divergent) gives a marvellously contained showing as Baby, managing to bring enough charisma (and just a tinge of sorrow) to the character for us to empathise with him despite his often withdrawn persona. His chemistry with James (Cinderella), allows us to see another side to the titular character, one of young love, and a possible future. On the other side of the coin there is the crews he works with. Whether that’s a controlling father figure (Spacey), a volatile workmate (Jamie Foxx), or a dark reflection (Jon Hamm), all bounce well off the others and Baby.
The result is a film that lives and breathes music and style, yet has a dramatic depth. Not just “Mozart in a go cart”, but a maestro in the director’s chair as well.