“Every scene in this film is driven by music.”
Thus reads a line on the first page of the script for Baby Driver, as Instagrammed by the Writer/Director Edgar Wright last month. Be it Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or The World’s End, Wright has always featured and drawn inspiration from music when crafting a film. His 2002 music video for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song” was seemingly a proof-of-concept for a film where music was the driving force, and with Baby Driver, this ambitious concept is brought home in stunning fashion.
Baby (Ansel Gort) is a getaway driver: a young man, plagued by tinnitus, who drowns out the ringing in his ears by plugging in headphones, driven by a musical beat that fuels his life as well as his profession. After a mistake has left him in debt to crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), he finds that paying off his debt is more complicated than one last job, with his services called upon for another big heist that looks certain to threaten those he holds dear.
A synopsis for a film is a dry affair, often encapsulating plot points and a streamlined narrative. Never has it done a film more injustice than Baby Driver. Every scene, from the simple act of picking up coffee, to a shoot out that unfolds to the sounds of Tequila, or a rousing showdown to the tunes of Queen’s Brighton Rock, is immaculately considered and superbly executed, running the gamut from the thrilling to the delightfully joyous. From Motown to Brit-pop, Baby Driver is a musical for the modern age. Do not underestimate the synchronicity and planning involved between pairing actions to music here, as it offers hilarity, deepens moment of tenderness, and drives home every action beat. It’s a film imbued with a tempo like no other, a pulse that fuels every scene. Baby Driver will be the film people pop in to show off their new home cinema sound system decades from now.
Calls for Edgar Wright to helm a Fast and Furious entry will not be unfounded. The action sequences, devoid of CGI, are thrillingly exciting and precise. Their impact heightened stunning long takes and their interplay with music. But in the way that Shaun of the Dead is a zombie horror rooted in British mundanity, this is a heist film rooted in the real world. It’s not all Ferraris smashing through windows, as there is a nuance to its action. The best getaway drivers aren’t the ones that outrun the cops, they’re the ones the cops don’t even notice. Think 1978’s The Driver, or the benchmark for car chases Bullitt — but for the iPod generation. And with its heist gone wrong vibe, there are even portions of the film Michael Mann would be proud of.
Despite the absence of his usual band of regulars, Wright’s cast acquit themselves with aplomb. There’s not an ounce of fat here with either the casting or writing. The group is divided into factions, each character with their own tics and agendas (the Reservoir Dogs reverence is evident). Ansel Elgort and Lily James are immediately adorable together, the former crafting a quirky monosyllabic character with a little Astaire flair in his step on occasion, while Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm chew up all the scenery that is offered to them (likewise with Kevin Spacey and his “bananas” character). Their offbeat personas are offset by Baby’s arc: the initial glorification of the escape giving way to very real consequences. Once you stop driving, things will catch up to you. There’s a lesson there, but it never detracts from how much of a blast Wright’s latest creation is.
Last year Edgar Wright published his top 1000 films. Baby Driver works in a similar way, as an education in not only cinema, but music too: a marriage of these two mediums in perfect harmony. There will be plenty of deconstruction and appreciation of what Wright has achieved, but even without delving too deeply, Baby Driver is something unique, a joy to experience, and showcases a filmmaker with a hell of a swagger in his step.