Edgar Wright returns with BABY DRIVER, a film about love, family, music and driving really fast. Hurtling along at breakneck speed, this is a fuel injected rollercoaster ride of a movie. It is testament to the fact that action sequences can still be artful and elegant; action films thrilling yet emotionally engaging.
Edgar Wright has been the master of edit-suite-ballet since SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but here he has finally mastered his own rhythm. His penchant for off-beat and choppy visual comedy finally comes together in a way that is seamless and effortless. The chase sequences in BABY DRIVER are relentless, the camera moves with fluidity between tracking shots and close-ups, but Wright is able to keep up with his own ambitions. His scatterbrain editorial style, the essence of so many of his films, seems less jarring and disorientating than before, less omnipresent on screen and more harmonious with the subject matter and the heart of the story.
This is a film in love with cinema, music and pop culture…
Beyond the adrenaline-fuelled chase sequences is a film of immense heart. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a lonely kid, orphaned and suffering from a lifelong condition of tinnitus, and forced into a life of crime he never asked for. He finds solace in music as he soundtracks the entire film from his iPod. Music is the greatest character here, not since Tarantino has a director understood the power of popular song and its ability to amplify the dramatic power onscreen. The jukebox selections which Baby must have set on random, articulate each character’s emotions with an eloquence that needs no exposition. They conjure a mood and cineliterate atmosphere aware of its genre tropes without bashing you over the head with them. There are touches of TRUE ROMANCE in the plot and even a hint of Han Solo in Baby’s attire. This is a film in love with cinema, music and pop culture and basks in a knowing awareness that never breaks the fourth wall or distracts you from the story on screen.
There is a simplicity to Baby and Debora’s (Lily James) romance which feels authentic, the urgency of Baby’s situation forces their relationship to become more serious without seeming unrealistic or melodramatic. There is a very real intensity that follows these two wide-eyed lovers that can only bring them closer. As a comedy, the film is very funny, less scattershot than SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD yet still very much in conversation with itself. Yet for all its success as a car chase movie, a crime film, a teen romance, coming-of-age musical road movie, BABY DRIVER functions as a very visceral thriller. In its third act as the wheels begin to start falling off, everybody becomes more unhinged and everybody is out to get Baby. The getaway sequence is one of the most palpably suspenseful moments of recent cinema and there are many moments throughout the film when the tension throbs like a guitar string at breaking point.
…there are many moments throughout the film when the tension throbs like a guitar string at breaking point
BABY DRIVER is a tour de force of directorial showmanship, with Edgar Wright feeling confident and eminent enough to show off his talent as an auteur. Perhaps with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after the ANT-MAN debacle, it is evident that Wright was determined to deliver a masterpiece, utilising his medium to sublime effect. His knack for bringing the heart of a movie together in the editing room is achieved to a masterful standard, but in BABY DRIVER, amidst all the madness – the car chases, the violent sociopathic gangsters, the comic violence and the melodrama of teen romance – Edgar Wright has crafted a film of exquisite beauty, which is engaging and emotionally affecting. Its central story of loss, family and idealistic romance in a cruel and violent world, is one that cannot fail to resonate with modern audiences and functions as perfect five-star, popcorn entertainment. This is the Hollywood movie perfected.