By Cole Henry
2017 has been a stellar year for movies thus far and a film has to be very special in order to stand out among the likes of The Beguiled, Okja, and Personal Shopper. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver stands out in that crowd and then proceeds to do donuts around them in a bright red Subaru WRX. The film is a love letter to crime films of old with the stunt-work and suave nature of Steve McQueen’s best acted film, The Getaway. Where The Getaway relied on relentless action to push the film ahead, Baby Driver relies on a pulsing, living, perpetual soundtrack that breathes a modern relentless energy to the film. Wright’s camerawork, stunt coordination, and editing all act in synchronicity with the soundtrack. He has created, quite possibly if viewed through a certain lens, the greatest music video of all time, and if one views it through the classical lens of film than he has created one of the best action films of all time. Either way, it is a win-win situation for both Wright and the viewer. This review will be broken down into two categories: Acting and direction/editing.
The acting all around is top notch and every actor plays perfectly to the comedic cues in Wright’s script and also to their comedic cues as actors. Ansel Elgort is very quiet and stoic as the titular Baby but he also imbues the character with a loving and bountiful sense of youthful energy. The viewer cares for Baby because deep down Baby is a good man with a loving heart who is just in the wrong situation. Kevin Spacey too is great in the film as the mastermind behind the heists themselves, and he plays into his strengths of portraying a man of great power with a very very dark side. Lily James is amazing as Baby’s love interest for she is a strong character with a great sense of humor, and her chemistry with Elgort is incredibly natural. Their relationship never feels forced or corny. It always seems genuine. Jamie Foxx is great as a bank robber with a mean streak, Jon Hamm chews up every scene he is in with a hilariously suave and devilishly evil energy, and Eliza González’s chemistry with Hamm is as genuine as it is over the top. The acting never falters and that helps to give the film the beating heart that it needs.
Edgar Wright’s direction, as always, is virtually flawless. Every cut feels earned and the rapid nature of his editing never grows tiring. He even displays restraint with his editing virtuoso in that he allows some takes to go on for awhile, and for the action to speak for itself. His use of long takes and wide shots in the various chase scenes allows the viewer to follow the action coherently and it allows for the amazing stunt work on display to be truly appreciated. All of the action is handled with such care and expertise that the viewer feels the explosive nature of every gunshot and reels with every death defying stunt Baby pulls off behind the wheel of whatever car he is in. Yet, it isn’t just the direction of the chase scenes that standout. Almost every scene from a directorial perspective stands out in its own unique way. Every insert shot, transitional shot, shot-reverse-shot, and etc. portray a sense of uniqueness that only the likes of Wright could pull off. The editing too, as Wright’s films have become known for, is perfect. The film is edited and mixed in such a way so that the movie shakes, rattles, and hums to the pulse of the soundtrack. The soundtrack should be commended! Any viewer of Wright’s films knows that his eclectic taste in music is quite cool but he also knows how to allow music to give life to a scene. He allows a whole bank heist/chase scene to shuck and jive to the energetic tune of “Neat Neat Neat by The Damned.” Not only is it audacious and award worthy, it is just downright fun. Top to bottom, toe to tip, Baby Driver is just two hours of pure cinematic bliss. It is the film of the summer.
Afterword: As an Atlanta native for most of my life, up until recently, it is amazing and surreal to see a movie take place in a city I am so familiar with. The attention to detail is awesome from the talks of traffic, shots of Spaghetti Junction, Baby shopping in Criminal Records, the use of the radio station 97.1 The River during a bank heist, and the actual voice of the W.S.B. weather man being used on the news in the film. Atlanta is a rapidly growing city for the arts and Baby Driver showcases it beautifully.