Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Baby Driver

Grade : A Year : 2017 Director : Edgar Wright Running Time : 1hr 53min Genre : ,
Movie review score
A

One of the best things about Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” for me is that I don’t feel like I have to analyze it, or agonize over it, to know where I stand with the film. I enjoyed it thoroughly while watching it, and while the reasons for that enjoyment were plentiful, there wasn’t anything in particular to elevated it. The whole package delivered, and it’s one of the few mainstream films this year that has felt like a complete package. That’s always a pleasant surprise in the middle of the summer.

Edgar Wright has had the idea for “Baby Driver” on his brain for about 20 years or so, and it’s definitely another smart genre riff from the director of “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Unlike those films, however, Wright is playing straight with the genre, being the heist movie, and while there are genuine laughs that shine through, this is as straight-faced as “Hot Fuzz” was deviously satirical. After he left Marvel’s “Ant-Man” over creative differences, he decided to return to something that was purely his, and even though a lot of his distinguishing traits seem to be missing (a satirical wit, a “big” theme), this is a Wright film through and through, and it’s a doozy.

The film starts with a robbery. The principal parties are Griff (Jon Bernthal), the lovers Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Baby (Ansel Elgort), the getaway driver. Baby has his earbuds in, and while the rest are doing their job, he rocks out to the song he’s playing. Once they are ready to go, he is, as well, and he works his magic, darting through the streets of Atlanta with the Atlanta PD in hot pursuit, but not quite getting there. Afterwards, they meet with their boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), to split up shares, and part ways until the next job. Baby always has his earbuds in, and music playing, even when he’s with his foster father (CJ Jones), who’s deaf, and Debora (Lily James), a waitress at the diner he goes to after each job. He’s not being rude; he has tinnitus in his ears after a crash when he was a kid that killed his singer mother and abusive father, and the music helps keep the ringing at bay. In true crime film fashion, we get the impression that Baby is working towards that mythical “one last job” that will make him straight with Doc, but of course, it’s never as simple as that.

For the second time in three movies (“Scott Pilgrim” was the first), Wright uses music as a character in the film. With “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” it came from the fact that there are a lot of musicians and battles between bands going on; in “Baby Driver,” there’s an even stronger emotional connection between the character and the soundtrack here. As with “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Peter Quill, the connection has to do with his mother, but the music is his own selection, except for one particular track he will make a deal to get back later. Wright populates the soundtrack of this film with well-known tracks like “Nowhere to Run” and “Radar Love” (as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver,” which plays the movie into the credits), but also some deeper cuts from Queen (“Brighton Rock”), T-Rex (“Debora”) and Beck (“Debra”) that will instantly hit your playlist for the rest of the summer, and quite possibly, the year. I want a “Baby Driver” sequel just to hear what he’s listening to next.

After young adult hits “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Divergent,” Elgort arrives on the scene as a star. He doesn’t say much, but he projects a presence about him that carries the film through, along with carries himself ably next to big personality stars like Spacey, Foxx and Hamm. The opening credits, set to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle,” has him enjoying life as he gets coffee for the crew and walks through downtown Atlanta. The city, by the way, is not used often enough as a location in its own right, and Wright and his cinematographer, Bill Pope, make it as full of life and energy as it is when you’re going about your day, taking in the sights of a city with a character all its own. As someone who has spent plenty of time down there, both as a student at Georgia State, and as a frequent Dragon*Con attendee, it’s fun to see places you’ve been, and how they work into the action, although it does make cuts along the way seem implausible. That doesn’t make Wright’s crime thriller, which moves to a beat all its own, any less fun to watch- in fact, it makes it even MORE fun. That’s something a lot of summer movies seem to forget- they should be fun. They should take a lesson from Edgar Wright- this witty Brit knows how to enjoy himself, and how to take audiences along for the ride.

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