You can sometimes tell when a film maker is having fun doing what he’s doing. There’s a palpable sense of delight in Baby Driver that you can also witness in The World’s End (“Get back on your rocket and fuck off back to Legoland, you cunts!”) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. A tangible, palpable sense that this is someone with the best job in the world, and he’s loving every minute of it.
From the first moments of the film, when we hear The John Spencer Blues Explosion’s ‘Bellbottoms’, this film grabbed me. It did not let go.
It’s a film constructed around the internal playlist of someone with an impressive cache of songs on the iPod – when life becomes a musical, a giant music video with you as the central protagonist, fully immersed in the sonic experience. The one that the rest of the world is not privileged enough for you to share with them. In many ways, it’s a musical (without the characters breaking into song), all under the guise of a car chase/bank heist caper.
It’s a film made in a mindset of music videos (back when such things were all the rage); I could get this sense that Wright had approached his visuals and audio in the same mindset as me – seeing accidental confluences of sound and image come together flawlessly; a sweet guitar lick syncing up with a pair of windshield wipers, or the exuberant joy of having one’s commute from A to B accompanied by the world’s most awesomely appropriate piece of song writing.
Baby Driver is a film which will require multiple viewings, for on first view it looks to contain any number of cues and references to previous works – Wright’s and others. A moment after the explosive opening act has Baby collect coffee for the rest of the crew, strung together in a seamless single take, while ‘ordinary townsfolk’ around him fill in the background. It recalled the repeated shot in Shaun of the Dead when Shaun went to the corner store (to buy – among other things – a Corne’o), filled with references, notes and cues that cannot be absorbed until it has been watched obsessively multiple times.
I loved the characters – the complexity Ansel Elgort brings to Baby; the sweet, old fashioned romance that blooms between him and Lily James’ Debora; Jon Hamm playing against type as the career criminal; Jamie Foxx managing somehow to not be the coolest thing in the room; Kevin Spacey being just … awesome.
The film is a symphony of precise shot construction and editing; a pop culture masterpiece without parallel. It is a film which achieves everything one might presume the Fast and Furious films set out to (I’ve only seen the first one, which was *fine*), but with a greater love for storytelling craft and less reliance on spectacle over substance, and gay subtext.
This film also boasts what is probably the greatest song soundtrack in history. You may have been impressed by the Classic FM playlist that was Forrest Gump, or the ‘best of’ Motown selection from The Big Chill; or, perhaps the scratchy rarities of Pulp Fiction was more your bag. Either way, Baby Driver has it licked – it’s the funkiest, grooviest compilation you’ve ever heard; one so propulsive and unexpected that you find yourself in very dangerous risk of driving with reckless abandon should you put it on in your car. Muscles will doubtlessly be hyper-extended in the gym if this selection accompanies anyone’s workout regime. Check out the track listing: it’s as varied as it is surprisingly unconventional.
So Edgar Wright has now got five films under his belt and has knocked each one of them clean out of the arena. I’d rank him alongside Tarantino as being one of the great emerging film making talents, who take genre pictures and make magnificent works of art out them; a new breed of auteur who take their inspirational cues from mass entertainments; taking the B-movie conceit and turning it into something infinitely more than the sum of its parts.
I love this movie.