Sunday 9 July 2017

Baby Driver - Edgar Wright

Baby Driver - Edgar Wright

I think Edgar Wright has been playing a fair bit of Grand Theft Auto recently. But then that doesn't seem surprising for the director that gave us one of the best video game films, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. 

Baby Driver: a crime caper full of car chases and comedic quips, set to a thumping, grooving soundtrack. You play as Baby, the titular heist getaway driver, who speeds across the city, steals cars, evades the cops, and cranks up the volume on the car stereo and his iPod to drown out the tinnitus.

It sounds like a video game plot, but it's an incredibly cool and stylish movie (even the poster looks straight out of GTA). Car chases are dynamically filmed but without disorientating the viewer, tense enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, yet awesome enough to have you whooping and praising the stunt guys. It's bold, vibrant and cartoonish, balancing the fun side of high speed thrills with a tightly woven plot.

It's got more than a little Tarantino to it too: Wright's playful filmmaking, the witty script, the outlandish style, the use of music. The difference is that where Tarantino revels in brutal violence, in Baby Driver it's mostly hidden, cleverly blocked from view through the cinematography. Violence is implied and, for all the film's glee at showing off high octane action, is not to be laughed at.

The soundtrack is what ties it all together, though. Wright himself has described the film as a musical and that's true, the drama and music so intrinsically linked. Baby spends his spare time turning voice recordings into music, with voice samples layered with beats and synths; likewise Wright layers up the film's audio with gunshot percussion, tyre squeals and engine roars. And then the soundtrack kicks in: funk, Motown and rock tracks providing the inner-monologue to the frequently mute Baby. It's both diagetic and non-diegetic, part of the action whilst simultaneously a rolling commentary.

Elgort moodily charms as Baby; Jamie Foxx's Bat is suitably batshit crazy; Frank Underwood a.k.a. Kevin Spacey is both dangerous crime boss and kind father figure; and Jon Hamm sees red as the relentless yet handsome Buddy. Along with Elza González's Darling (disappointingly the typical sexy woman) they make quite the volatile mix, enough to keep you guessing until the end.

Really though, Baby Driver is a love story, with Baby thwarting the robbers to run away Bonnie and Clyde style with new cute girlfriend Debora (Lily James). Beneath all the slick polish, the top speeds and the pounding stereo, the engine of this vehicle is its heart.

4/5