The concept of the getaway driver in the crime/heist sub-genre has been inherently appealing throughout the history of cinema, particularly the idea that a skilful driver who drives for crims may not be wholly bad himself and is just simply an active accomplice caught within an out-of-control criminal web. Cinema has dabbled with this idea from time to time, whether it’s Walter Hill’s The Driver, Richard C. Sarafian’s Vanishing Point or Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job. These genre conventions were utilised greatly recently with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and now it’s Edgar Wright’s turn to take a crack at the genre, and boy, does it pay off with outstanding results.
Edgar Wright is a director who has made a huge impact in cinema thanks to his phenomenal Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) and the fantastic yet highly underrated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; what has made these films so unique and influential was their high concepts, fast energy and creative use of music, all identifiable traits crucial to the success of this particular outing. This doesn’t fall into the traditional trap of becoming too stylised that the narrative and character development ends up getting lost; instead, Wright uses his own unique and creative style to fuel and power up his story and characters, almost like the cars in this movie that have slick and stylish bodies whilst having powerful, functioning, well-oiled engines inside. Wright’s writing and characterisation clicks throughout to the point where you do understand and unravel the mindset of each of his characters, right down to their motivations, where they come from and what their dreams and desires are.
Skilled cinematographer Bill Pope (who previously worked on Wright’s Scott Pilgrim and The World’s End) once again proves his credentials by giving each frame of the movie life, vibrancy, and story, as every single frame of the movie tells its own little narrative which works perfectly within the mechanism of the movie. The car chases seen here are some of the best seen on film, harkening back to the great car chases of cinema yore such as Bullitt, The French Connection and The Blues Brothers, and resulting in a ballet of burnt rubber and screeching tyres. The soundtrack in this film is quite extraordinary, having been armed with “killer tracks” from Queen’s ‘Brighton Rock’ to Bob and Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’, and each and every song included serves as something like a heartbeat to drive the pace and flow of the movie forward, as well as complementing the movie’s narrative almost in the same matter as a musical akin to Scott Pilgrim.
Each and every performance in this film is on-point and complements the film massively, and Ansel Elgort gives a breakout performance as the titular Baby. Having already given a charismatic performance back in The Fault In Our Stars, Elgort gives Baby real genuine confidence and vulnerability that makes you believe in him as a getaway driver with a heart of gold. As usual, the luminous Lily James excels as the object of desire for Elgort’s Baby, exuding an innocence and sweetness that instantly makes you fall in love with her. Kevin Spacey is simply phenomenal as the cold and calculating mastermind, polishing off his wry and slimy act that served him well in House of Cards, while Jamie Foxx is pure dynamite as the unstable shotgun-wielding cohort (then again, anything would’ve been better than Electro!). However, the standouts may be the electrifying duo of Jon Hamm and Eiza González, who feel like Bonnie and Clyde mixed with Joker and Harley Quinn. Hamm goes through an evolution of emotions that makes him both suave and terrifying in equal measure (certainly different from his Mad Men days), whilst González uses both her magnetic presence and sultry beauty (which helped her well with TV’s From Dusk Till Dawn) to give off an alluring yet deadly performance.
Edgar Wright has been an influential presence in cinema and once again, he delivers in spades with Baby Driver rocketing upwards into the higher echelons as one of the best films to come out of this year. Everything in this movie works across the board – the direction, the stylisation, the character dynamics, cinematography and so forth. It’s evident that a lot of heart and passion has gone into this and the results are truly awe-inspiring; this is a pedal-to-the-metal rollercoaster that’s not to be missed.
BABY DRIVER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: EDGAR WRIGHT / STARRING: ANSEL ELGORT, KEVIN SPACEY, LILY JAMES, JON BERNTHAL, JAMIE FOXX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected rating: 8/10