I hate having to scrap a good opening line. You see, I knew going in that Baby Driver was a music-packed movie about a getaway driver. And so my review was going to start with La La Land meeting Fast and the Furious in a bar, with Baby Driver popping out nine months later. Quentin Tarantino was to be named godfather, uncle Italian Job would send presents, and cousin Drive would sulk moodily in the corner. The metaphors were to become progressively worse.
Thankfully, you are spared the fate of reading that discarded opening, because Edgar Wright’s latest film is an engine-roaring, tire-screeching original. Mere minutes into the movie, it is clear that I am not to compare Baby Driver to films that have come before. I will, however, compare many films to Baby Driver in the coming years.
It all begins with the title, and Baby Driver is a fantastic one. Turns out, Baby is literally the name of our protagonist, the Driver. We join him just as he is about to begin a bank robbery with his buddy, Buddy, and his darling wife, Darling. There is a gruff fellow named Griff as well. As the other three scurry into the bank to do some robbing, Baby sits quietly in his car, iPod earphones plugged in. It appears to be a tense moment, but as the soundtrack swells in tune with Baby’s iPod, he breaks into the cheesiest of grins. The goofiest of dance moves follow. This bizarre, baby-faced Baby proceeds to sit there cheerfully, grooving behind the wheel of a getaway car with not a care in the world. His accomplices rush out of the bank, the deed done. As they scramble into the car, panicked, Baby calmly commences his getaway drive, but only when he’s made sure that he’s playing the right music for a car chase.
Damn it, I’m completely failing to convey how cool that sequence is, aren’t I? In case you missed it, he spontaneously choreographs a car chase to a song playing on his iPod. Turns out, Baby is a massive music lover, never to be spotted without earphones plugged firmly into his ear. He even has different iPods for different moods. (Watch out for the pink, glittery one) Right from the opening car chase, we are effectively given a live feed into Baby’s music player. There are more car chases, even a foot chase, and of course, the chase of a girl, all of which are set to music. This effectively turns Baby Driver a 30-track action musical. Can you imagine such a thing? If you’re a music lover*, this movie is nirvana. Songs are the driving force of Baby’s life, and everything from “Egyptian Reggae” to “Brighton Rock” is in there, carefully selected by him to suit the occasion.
It goes beyond just choice of music: the film is brilliant in its use of sound, period. For example, when Baby lends his right earphone to someone else, you will notice the right-hand-side speakers in the theater falling silent. There is a jaw-dropping shootout sequence where the gunshots are perfectly synchronized to the percussion playing in the background. That sequence alone should fetch it an Oscar for Sound Editing. And in an inspired bit of characterization, Baby’s most genuine relationship is with a mute character, serving as a beautiful counterpoint to all the auditory overload.
Killer music, killer action sequences, does it surprise you that the movie is also smartly written, funny as hell and brimming with heart? There are a few minutes of romance in this film, and they are likely to ringer truer and warmer than anything you’ll see in your standard romcom. There is a plot, but as in so many great movies, it is rendered superfluous by everything around it.
A word of praise here for the cast. Ansel Elgort graduates from young adult book adaptations with a star turn in the lead role. Lily James is loveliness personified, and holds together the emotional core of the film. Jamie Foxx is somehow hilarious and terrifying at the same time, owning the screen each time he is on it. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez make good use of their copious charisma and sex appeal. A strange restrained Kevin Spacey caps off the ensemble. What a crew!
Baap Director Edgar Wright was attached to Ant-Man for eight years before infamously exiting the project due to creative differences with Marvel Studios. That sad exit, however, paved the way for Baby Driver to hit the floors, proving once again that the Rolling Stones were right all along -you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. So far, Wright’s main cinematic legacy has been his “Cornetto” trilogy, consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013). With Baby Driver, he has left Cornetto behind, and made something that’s as good as ice cream.
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
*Did you spot the Beatles reference in the title?
Indian Nerve attended a preview screening of Baby Driver. The film releases in India on 30 June, 2017.