Warning: This review is going to be biased. The incredible Edgar Wright is one of my favorite directors, and it’s hard for me to see anything but magic when watching his films.
For me, Edgar Wright is one of the few directors that not only creates a unique and robust world in his films, but also references the real world with honorable relevance. His projects don't shy away from current pop culture. He never pretends that the fourth wall is present, even if he never breaks it. He creates balanced films that are pure enjoyment to experience. All of his projects, from the TV Spaced to Baby Driver, you can tell you are watching an Edgar Wright production. The difference with the newest release is that he has taken all the lessons he’s learned before and produced an unforgettable film.
It was always hard for me to choose my favorite of his films, as each one had something wonderful the others didn’t, unique yet equivalent in their brilliance. At the time of this writing, Baby Driver is by far the best one. The way he blended all the necessary elements that make up a film—music, acting, visuals, story—into a compelling heart racing story is mind blowing. From the moment the film starts you realize you are about to strap in for one hell of a ride.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is an impeccable driver. He knows how to weave his way elegantly around barriers, creating an expansive road for him, and those around him, to accomplish their goals without worry. Granted, this usually means being a get-away driver for criminals, but either way he knows how to get the job done. His employment under Doc (Kevin Spacey) introduces him to a wide range of characters, from the extremely loving couple of Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) to untrusting Griff (Jon Bernthal) to the ruthless Bats (Jamie Foxx). The jobs aren’t always easy, and sometimes forced upon, but he’s determined to get out of them alive.
Now comes the hard part. How do I discuss the elements of the film that make me squeel with joy without giving too much away? A favor you can do for yourself with this film is go into it knowing as little as possible. The little things that pop up throughout the film that you may not realize at first are much welcomed surprises. I don’t want to ruin it for you.
One of those phenomenal surprises is the way music was worked into the story. It’s known that Baby constantly has ear buds in his ears for he does love his music. It’s a bit part of the character and one many of us can relate to. We all have that killer track that we listen to when we need to get pumped, or calm down, or the one that just makes us happy. Wright knows this, and incorporates it in a way that literally has you saying, “same.”
Beyond the explained universal connection we have to music is the way all of that is woven into the film seamlessly. It goes beyond having the soundtrack of the movie actually be the song Baby is listening to, which is always fun when that happens, but into the core of the film. It becomes the heartbeat of the film, and the editing techniques that match the rhythmic beats of the songs are so precise it’s breathtaking. The collaboration between these two timed elements is so detailed it’s as if they line up at a molecular level, atom for atom.
The attention to detail is not just in the musical arena, it’s sprinkled throughout the whole film. The importance that music plays to the character of Baby is epic, and it needed an equally epic actor to pull it off. Baby is one who dances like no one is watching, yet at the same time is aware of every bit of his surroundings. Elgort simply nailed it. We understand that there is something lurking under the surface with this character, but Elgort doesn’t exploit that into unnecessary brooding. He takes what is given to meddle all of those elements into a breathing complicated character that you feel instantly connected to.
He’s not the only casting choice that allows for a quick bond to form between the screen and the audience. The amount of random (in the sense of their strengths) talent in this film is exciting. You have the roguishly handsome villainy of Hamm interacting with the intense yet lovable presence of Foxx with the serene energy of new beginnings that Lily James character (Debora) creates. One cannot exist without the other, and because of that the story instantly and continuously is full. To further this point, Bats is bat shit crazy, yet because of Foxx you can’t entirely despise him, which you have every reason to. Or the fact that I can get tired of there always being a love interest in films, but the one between Deborah and Baby has you wanting the impossible happy ending for these two.
The above is a perfect example of the emotional rollercoaster you didn’t realize you were on. I went from jamming in my seat to the beautiful life soundtrack of the film to perching on the edge of it as the action took off. I don’t know when it happened, but it most certainly happened. You become so engrossed in the world on the screen that you aren’t waiting for what happens next, it just happens to you. You really are taken for a ride in this film.
Which is an overt way of slipping into the next element that fascinated me about this film; the action. I’m a big supporter of the stunt community and push for their recognition in the physicality they express in film. Most of the time, however, it’s focused on martial artists, the fighters who allow audiences to believe they are watching god-like creatures land a perfect punch. Baby Driver, however, shines a spotlight on another, and equally talented, group of stunt actors with the death defying driving sequences. The artistry these crew members created by driving a car really, really fast down Atlanta streets is mesmerizing.
The cars become other characters within the story, and each one of them has different traits that are unique to only them. It goes beyond being a style choice, and becomes a character choice. We have an equal opportunity car action in this film, and its pure pleasure to witness. These action sequences are some of the most impressive I have seen this year. It’s a choreographed dance conducted by a four footed two-toned vehicle.
Honestly, this movie is everything. That may be hard to understand, but I promise once you see the film you will know exactly what I mean. To be fair, most of Edgar Wright films are full with countless elements of joy, so if you’re a fan of his work, you know what to expect. For me, as a mega fan, this is an example of his growth as a filmmaker. This film was challenging in ways his others haven’t been, and he not only accomplished them with flying colors but proved that he still can learn after 20 years in the business. That should make any film fan excited, because that means there is at least one filmmaker out there that is willing and capable of pushing his own boundaries to open the door to a whole new world.
For now, Baby Driver is that film. It takes the summer action blockbuster and flips it on its head to an elegant mixture of artistry and heart-racing action. It’s an indie blockbuster. I don't know if that’s a thing, but Edgar Wright is one of the few directors who can pull this contradiction off.
Baby Driver is now playing in theaters.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Sony Entertainment