Edgar Wright’s last directorial effort was The World’s End which released four years ago. It was the climax to his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which had reached cult status due to the British favourites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Since then he’s found himself almost directing Ant-Man for Marvel, but that ultimately ended up not happening due to conflicting creative choices. So that means Baby Driver, an original piece of work written and directed by him, holds the title of his first American film. Ten years on from Hot Fuzz, can Wright deliver a film just as memorable?
This film follows Baby (Ansel Elgort) a young getaway driver who is coerced into working with Doc (Kevin Spacey) a veteran crime kingpin. But when he meets Debora (Lily James), a girl he can be himself around, he starts to long for a way out of the crime underworld, but before he can leave he must assist with one final heist.
I’ll get straight to the point. I know it’s still too early for this type of talk, but there’s a number of categories that this film deserves an Oscar nomination for. Best Original Screenplay being one of them, Wright is certainly on form with this film and this script is yet another shinning example of what he is capable of crafting when he is at his best. The story itself takes narrative twists and turns as if it were the car Baby is drifting through the streets. It never feels formulaiac or predictable and there are a handful of moments and story decisions that shocked me in the best way possible. The dialogue is sharp, many scenes featuring just dialogue will still have you on the edge of your seat. The only scripts that have entertaining and enthralling dialogue to this standard are those written by Tarantino, and just like his films every character has likeable traits to them, despite them not all being good people. They all end up being extremely memorable due to a mixture of their character traits, the casts performances and the adaqute bits of development they receive, to let us know a little more about their backstory.
I’ve never seen The Fault in Our Stars or any of the Divergent films so for me, this film is my introduction to Ansel Elgort as an actor and I am very impressed. He completely makes this character his to the point where I cannot picture any other actor playing Baby. He’s believable as the best getaway driver out there and his chemistry with Lily James makes their blossoming fondness of each other something you connect with. There are small moments throughout the film where we learn about his childhood and he handles those emotionally reflective moments with ease. With all that being said I still haven’t told you the best aspect of this character. His love and need for music. I won’t go into detail as to why but Baby spends a large amount of this film with his iPod headphones in listening to music, the music gives him his rhythm whilst driving and he cannot drive without it. It’s a really good inclusion to the script that not only makes the character unique, but also allows for the soundtrack to be included within the film in a very fresh way, which I will get onto in more detail later on.
The rest of the cast were all excellent, Kevin Spacey shined with limited screen time as Doc, the crime kingpin responsible for putting these teams together for heists. He has a long history with Baby which gives him a handful of moments to develop his character, beyond the typical nature you’d expect with the type of character he is. Buddy portrayed by Jon Hamm is an interesting character to watch throughout the course of the film, because his character gets more scenery to play with than any of the other side characters. He also has a Bonnie and Clyde style relationship with Monica, played by Eiza González. Their scenes bouncing off each other worked to showcase their crazed love for one another, which only added more personality to the cast of side characters. Jamie Foxx has reminded me that with the right material he can deliver a great performance (to any of you who may have seen Sleepless earlier this year – you know what I’m getting at) he plays Batts, a smooth talking criminal with a swarm of (you guessed it) Bats tattooed on his neck. You can tell Foxx had a lot of fun with this role and it translates to screen. He was a pleasure to watch and his dialogue with the rest of the cast really stood out as not only being funny at times, but also very enthralling with a slight bit of menace too. Last but not least Lily James’ Debora sold her growing affection for Baby very well, so that when she is in moments of peril it winds up the tension of the scenes very easily.
This is a very well directed film, and just like the memeorable cast of characters, there’s more than a handful of memorable scenes. Many of them either being just scenes of dialogue and some of them with no dialogue at all, just music. Music plays an important role in this film, the music is almost it’s own character and how the music is utilised and blended in with the editing, makes this film even more unique than it already is. The opening scenes perfectly depict the manner in which the soundtrack will be used throughout the film. All of the music we hear during the film is whatever Baby is listening to through his iPod. So not only does that give us a clear insight into what he listens to as he drives and which songs assist him with his skilful driving, but it also gives us an insight into how he is feeling in particular momemts, because during many scenes the music and lyrics reflect upon the scene they are featured in, and help progresses the story and character development. The stunt work on display is impressive and how Wright and his director of photography chose to frame the stunt driving, gives the audience a clear view to follow the chases and action as they unfold with ease. Wright certainly delivers some of the better car chase sequences put on film in a while.
I saw this film a few days ago before it’s release and from then til now I still can’t identify a single fault I have with the film. It’s as close to flawless as I think a film can possibly be.
Baby Driver is one of the best original films of the decade, I loved it. The cast is excellent. The use of the soundtrack is great. The direction is solid. The style is electric. It’s a new classic.
(5 Stars out of 5)
Baby Driver; Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.
Directed by Edgar Wright. Now showing in UK and US Cinemas.