Edgar Wright is easily one of my all time favourite filmmakers. I can’t think of a single director who consistently knocks it out of the park with project after project. Whether it’s his collaborations with Pegg and Frost in the Cornetto Trilogy or his ecstatic adaptation of Bryan Lee O’ Malley’s graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs The World (My number one film of 2010) and even his short films such as A Fistful of Fingers and Dead Right, the man just does not disappoint. Well actually that’s not entirely true. He did actually manage to disappoint myself and several others when he announced his departure from directing Ant Man back in 2014. Not that I wasn’t satisfied with the overall and completed version of Ant Man that we got under the helm of Peyton Reed, it’s just that I felt that if it had been under the wing of Wright, then we would have gotten something fresh and original, which is a feature that a lot of entries in the MCU suffer from (especially with regards to their narratives and plot structure).
So with all that being said, fans of Wright were eager to see what Wright had in store for us now that the Cornetto Trilogy had been completed with the release of The Worlds End back in 2013. Flash forward to 2017 with the release of Edgar Wright’s fifth feature film and first film shot in the United States. So was it worth the wait? In short, it absolutely was. I adored every single minute of this film and a tough one to beat for best film of the year. In simply terms, this is a heist movie. Baby (Elgort) is a getaway driver working under the thumb of Doc (Spacey) in order to pay off a debt. Upon first glance, this does sound like a familiar narrative structure. The young protagonist skilled at a craft who longs for a life beyond crime. But what Wright does differently and brilliantly here is how he incorporates the use of music into the film. You see Baby was involved in a serious car accident as a child, leaving him with tinnitus or ‘a hum in the drum’ as Doc so slickly articulates. In order to drown it out, Baby is constantly listening to music, owning a variety of different iPods for different days and moods. He even carries out his driving skills to the beat of a variety of songs. Almost all of the action is done to the beat of music (even the sound of machine guns) Now this could easily be criticised as being an exercise in style over substance and nothing but a gimmick, but Wright knows exactly when it needs to be applied while also balancing some equally dramatic moments (an aspect that Wright effectively demonstrated in the relationship between Pegg and Frost in The World’s End) involving moments with Baby and his deaf foster father. It’s very powerful stuff and very well written. I won’t spoil it but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Of course, I can’t give all the credit to Wright. All of the performances are top notch here. Ansel Elgort, who you may recognise as Gus from The Fault in Our Stars, is wonderful as Baby displaying both a level of innocence and sternness to his performance while also excelling in his action shots such as a thrilling parkour sequence in the film’s third act. Equally great is Lily James’ Deborah, a young waitress who shares similar ambitions to Baby longing for a life of freedom on the road. Spacey’s Doc is also a standout. He comes across as both a considerate father figure while also hardening back to the stoic and monotone delivery of John Doe back in Se7en. The film features career best performances from Foxx and Hamm playing a pair of low life criminals who are, for lack of better words, nothing more than exaggerated caricatures, but it’s clear that Wright is aware of this thematic element and the actors are having a ball playing these roles, chewing as much of the scenery as they can.
All of Wrights usual visual cues are on display here such as the quick cuts and snappy sound cues. A perfect example is the film’s opening heist scene in which all done to the tune of The Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion’s electric BellBottoms which is then followed by Baby’s stroll to the coffee shop done in the tune of Harlem Shuffle. It’s breathtaking to watch and fans of Wright’s will gush over it. The same can be said about the dialogue and humour. There are so many quotable lines here such as “the moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet” and a joke about Pixars Monsters Inc. which had me howling with laughter in the auditorium. Baby Driver is the kind of film that we need more of in 2017. It’s original, it’s entertaining, it’s funny, well-written, emotionally hefty, beautifully filmed (shoutout to Bill Pope for the cinematography) and unlike anything else out in cinema at the moment. Need further proof? There is a moment in the opening scene where Jon Bernthal’s criminal orders Baby to drive forward in which Baby responds by reversing in the opposite direction. That is Edgar Wright. We think he is giving us something we have seen before when in fact we are getting something incredibly unconventional. There is a reason why I consider him one of my all time favourite filmmakers and this absolute gem of a film is a perfect example as to why. Go see it now. Sean Moriarty