Oh Baby. What a rush. It’s starting to seem that Edgar Wright can do no wrong. Baby Driver is more than the movie we hoped for, it’s the movie we never really expected to want, but got because we’ve been good this year.
On the surface, Baby Driver is a heist film with a love story riding in the back seat. Behind the wheel we have a young guy named Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, who is the best getaway driver in town. His gimmick? He suffers from tinnitus, and uses music for his cues, and beats. Without it, he’s driving blind. One fateful night, he meets a lovely waitress at a dinner, and then he gets his final job.
At its core Baby Driver is car and gun porn: fast cars, cool guns, sweet heists. It’s the perfect fuel for a summer film. In a recent trend with current Hollywood films, the first 15 minutes set the scene. If you are not brought in by the end of it, you’ll be exhausted. The stunt drivers are magnificent. The driving is beautifully choreographed, and everything falls into place perfectly. Unlike other action films, such as the 8 Fast and Furious films, or the cacophony of any Transformers film, Baby Driver doesn’t rely on explosions, or excessive property damage. The excitement relies on the easy to follow fast pace of the driving. On top of all that, if you have a keen ear, you’ll be able to notice something subtle. You begin to realize you’re a captive in a new genre. You’re no longer in a simple action movie, you’re watching a hybrid. You’re now watching a musical. But this isn’t a cheesy jukebox musical about cars and love. Nor is it a pessimistic murder filled Broadway spectacular about revenge. It’s better than that, it’s neither cheesy, nor cruel. It’s fun, right, and has a killer soundtrack. Every beat, bullet fired, door opening, or small inane action taken is in tune with the music. Every step they take and every move that’s made dances with the atmosphere. It’s in tune with everything. We are in tune with Baby.
Edgar Wright can write characters. He doesn’t discriminate based on genres, or styles. Like his other movies, he has well-developed characters that are more than a generic cliché. The main character Baby, constantly spelled out as B-A-B-Y by his numerous acquaintances, has a permanent boyish smirk plastered on his face. With a subtle pompadour and an endless supply of shades, he just radiates « cool ». He comes with a swagger that conveys confidence without arrogance, and we relish with his sense of fun and determination. Like many generic action heroes, he says very little, but does ever so much. Unlike musicals which rely on lyrics to declare their current emotional state, our hero wears everything in his facial expressions. He pulls it off without a hitch. He always has his heart in the right place, and never stops doing the right thing. His love interest, played by Lily James is too adorable and kind for our kind of world, but she found her place in an Edgar Wright body of work. She is not a simple treasure to be won by the boy. She has her own dreams, personality, and goals outside of « just want to be loved ». The supporting cast of criminals range from ambiguously hedonistic, to hanging on your seat sociopaths. They are so deliciously eye-catching, and their dialogue is fraught with the typical words we crave from of Edgar Wright’s works. We see the same quick-witted banter and heartfelt cries for love, as we do in his other films, and it works. No character seemed out of place, and all of them were used to their fullest potential. Though there are some I hoped would appear in more scenes, but I’m just being picky at this point.
This movie understands action. It understands pacing. It understands what scenes require to make the ambiance even better. After giving you an adrenal rush of a car chase, our pounding heart is brought back to a nice bad-dum bad-dum as we ease into Baby’s personal life. Where many action movies will put the coolest fight somewhere in the middle, Baby Driver puts theirs at the beginning. This doesn’t mean that every other scene is the B-side of action. They get close to replicating that first scene, but none of it really reaches that potential.
Overall, this is a romantic musical. It’s about love. Love for a partner, love for music, love for your passion, and basically love for oneself. Without it, we start losing credibility, we start losing our minds and essentially start losing ourselves. This is what drives Baby. This is what makes him not only a great character, but a character we need. We need the paragon of good. We need that boy scout caught in a hard place. We need that morally stable protagonist who has his heart in the right place all day, every day. This movie is not simply a « turn your brain off » type of action film you see too often. This is the type of summer film that gets us where we need to go.