Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Fox, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Bernthal
What's you favorite driving song? Do you like something heavy and loud? Do you like something with some rhythm? I'm impartial to soul and funk music, "Jungle Boogie" by Kool and the Gang or "Gonna Have A Funky Good Time" by James Brown. Regardless of how cool I may think my driving music is, it will never be as cool as the songs, and just about everything else, in director Edgar Wright's "Baby Driver".
Mr. Wright has always had a distinguishable style, even back in his early days you could notice it, however with every film in his growing catalog the director has only become better at combining his unique editing, camera, and narrative flow into a tightly packaged work. With "Baby Driver" the director may have perfected his style, making a film that is ridiculously fun and filled to the edges with creative filmmaking elements.
It's a simple story about a young man looking to get out of bad situation. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a driver, though his form of transportation has him chauffeuring clients wearing masks and holding pistols. Baby owes a debt to Doc (Kevin Spacey), the brains behind the heist operations, and is close to getting square, which will allow him to leave the life of crime behind. All baby needs to do is finish one last job.
Who doesn't like a good heist film? That's exactly what "Baby Driver" is, a film about bad guys trying to get rich. Stuck in the middle of these shady characters is Baby, a young man who organizes every aspect of his life around music. In the literal soundtrack to his life, Baby jauntily shuffles his way to the coffee shop with Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" perfectly matched to every step, turn, and even breath taken by Baby. The joy during many of the scenes comes from the balance of editing and the use of music. The music tells more story than the words spoken by the characters. The emotion felt during certain song choices tells you more about the characters than any word they could utter in the film. Every song is hand-picked for the scene, it's an eclectic jukebox of music that ranges from soul, rock, hiphop, punk, and jazz. You don't have to be a music fan to like this movie, but music fans will get an absolute thrill over the use of some of these songs.
The ingenious editing accommodates the music perfectly. Cuts match tempo and actions are choreographed in near perfect synchronicity to the music. It's not the first time Mr. Wright has done this; in "Shaun of the Dead" a zombie is pummeled with Queen playing in the background, in "The World's End" beers are guzzled in syncs to a tune by The Doors, and in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" the entire film is predicated on a band fighting villains with music. But there is something different about how the director uses this technique here, in the past it was a purposeful element that played a supporting character but in "Baby Driver" it’s an exercise, a process to compose an entire film with a beating musical pulse.
What the film lacks in the form of an original story it more than accommodates with its creative use in every other element that composes a film. The technique is wholly unique and the performances are nuanced and playful. Ansel Elgort plays Baby with a quiet charm while the other players like Kevin Spacey, Eiza Gonzalez, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, and Jon Hamm play their versions of tough criminals with bad attitudes with a mix of cartoon menace but also intimidation when the story takes a turn for the serious. Lily James, playing the love interest to Baby, glows in the small supportive role as well.
"Baby Driver" doesn't do much to heighten the modern take of the heist film, but what it does in composing all the aspects around it is absolutely impressive. It's one of the most entertaining pieces of film this year, and quite possibly one of the best music videos ever made.
4.50 out of 5.00