Few directors invoke as much good will from cinema audiences this side of the Atlantic quite like Edgar Wright. The Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz writer/director is as close to British cinema modern day royalty as it gets having delivered some of the most memorable genre-spanning comedies of the 21st century. Well, this time around he swaps the streets of Blighty with the banks of Atlanta for Baby Driver, a subverted action thriller which proves Wright is no longer a fanboy-turned-filmmaker – he’s one of the few must-see directors around.
Wright’s first directorial flick since The World’s End is told through the eyes, and, most importantly, the ears of Baby (Ansel Elgort) – a talented, youthful getaway driver who relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. He’s enigmatic, focused and doesn’t feel the need to use words where they’re not appropriate. He’s basically Drive’s weird little cousin.
Having gained a reputation as one of the best around, Baby is keen to leave the life of crime behind having finally paid off a mysterious debt to his long-time boss (Kevin Spacey). This is only compounded by meeting the girl of his dreams (Lily James) at the local diner, with the pair deciding to hit the road to parts unknown in a bid to start afresh… But Baby must face the music when a heist threatens his life, love and freedom.
At its core, Baby Driver is a throwback to films that lovingly portray the charisma of the criminal and the artistry of the car chase. There’s something truly old-fashioned about the way Wright uses his two loving leads who look they’ve come straight out of a 40’s American noir (the black and white dream sequences really emphasise the point). There’s a pureness and charm to Baby Driver despite the blood and palpable intensity.
As absurdly difficult as his name is to pronounce, Ansel Elgort deserves a special mention here for keeping all that energy in check. He’s perfectly casted as our boyish hero and gives a nuanced performance that’s expertly measured. Ultimately he’s just incredibly cool and as an audience you have no problem willing a relationship built on nothing more than two 5 minutes meetings to victory. Kevin Spacey is also on in fully ruthless Francis J. Underwood mode, while Jamie Foxx keeps you on your toes as combustible gunslinger, Bats.
We should mention, if you speak to anyone who’s seen Baby Driver, the first thing they’ll probably tell you about is the movie’s soundtrack. And it is absolutely stonking right from the start-line. Which is no real surprise given that the inception of Baby Driver began in 2003 when Wright road-tested the set-up during a music video he directed for the band Mint Royale, starring Noel Fielding. As such, the movie plays out as one continuous music video – it’s almost operatic.
But don’t think this is in any way trying to distract you from performances or flaws with the zinging script. Wright has clearly made a film where each scene was crafted only when he had found the perfect track for it. The action and dialogue fit perfectly with the tempo and timings, and it’s perfectly fluid rather than being frantic and chaotic. That said, the car chases are still up there with anything you’ll see in Bond.
But really Baby Driver is about one man, and that’s Edgar Wright. The film may be far more polished than any of the Cornettos, but it’s unmistakably a Wright production, with short, sharp cuts, stylised close-ups of seemingly unimportant objects, and laughs which could just have easily been placed in Sandford’s Village Fete as opposed to a bank heist. The script is also superb with intrigue in each and every character despite the film’s action thriller origins. But unlike some of the big hitters in the genre, backstories aren’t shoved down your throat. You almost don’t need to know what more there is to them, you’re just happy to know there is more.
The main achievement of Baby Driver is the proof that action films don’t need to sacrifice a smart script for thrills – something that’s become all too familiar. And if we’re honest, something we’ve probably accepted far too readily.
RELEASE DATE:Wednesday 28th June