by Lachlan Anderson
Rated MA15+. Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm. Directed by Edgar Wright.
Since his first proper feature film, Shaun of the Dead, broke through to the mainstream Edgar Wright has proven himself as one of the most talented and exciting filmmakers working today. His latest, heist thriller Baby Driver, is yet another step up in terms of quality for the British writer/director. This mix of action, thriller, comedy and musical is easily the best film so far this year.
Getaway driver Baby (Elgort) lives to the beat of the music he constantly surrounds himself with. He uses the music to drown out his tinnitus, even when tearing through the streets of Atlanta, chauffeuring bank robbers and evading the police. Indebted to crime boss Doc (Spacey), Baby is often forced to work with the craziest of thieves. But he sees a way out of that life when he meets waitress Debora (James), and so he plans his escape. When he does, everything goes insane.
On paper this film shouldn’t work. The first page of Wright’s script states that the entire film is driven by music. Not just a really killer soundtrack but also a film cut to the beat of the music that Baby listens to. We’re essentially invited into baby’s ears for two hours. No more is the perfect choreography of this endeavour better than in a gunfight, cut to the drum solo in Button Down Brass’ song Tequila. You could almost call the film a musical. There’s less than five minutes of film without some music playing.
It’s also the least comedic and tense film Wright has made. Fans of his Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) might be surprised at how much this leans toward thriller territory, but he handles the tone incredibly well. One moment you’re laughing, then exhilarated by a car chase, and then gripping your armrest nervously.
The supporting cast do outshine the young lead and his waitress love interest, who isn’t given too much to do and whose character is never fleshed out. Jamie Foxx is pure evil as Bats, Spacey is suave but terrifying and Jon Hamm’s Buddy will likely be the big surprise for viewers, and fans of Mad Men’s Don Draper.
On a thematic level, this takes a lot of cues from crime films that have come before. It’s the story of a man trapped in a life of crime, and just as he is about to get out he gets pulled right back in. This trope is incredibly common, and reflects a real spiritual imprisonment we all face. Just as we think we can get away from sin, we get pulled back in. It is only with the aid of a saviour that we can finally leave that life behind, debt free and justified.
The Verdict: Filmmakers take note, Edgar Wright has risen the stakes. Baby Driver is nonstop energy, music and action with plenty of laughs thrown in for good measure. Wright’s film is a charismatic and confident boundary pusher and testament to his abilities as a storyteller. Perhaps the best film you’ll see this year. 5/5
Baby Driver is in cinemas now.