Review: Ever since the delightfully staged getaway scene in the opening, when Baby (tall, pale Ansel Elgort) hit the gas and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms burst in stereo, Baby Driver has given the impression that it isn’t an ordinary ‘action film with some cool soundtracks.’ The scene that follows further evidences the same notion as Baby, in a slick tracking shot with Harlem Shuffle played, walks around the blocks buying coffees for his passengers.
Both scenes shows off that highly curated music tracks and stylish action bravura can go hand in hand. Even further, the music dissolves into the core—the cinematography, the choreography, the staging and the editing—unexceptionally. And, only in Edgar Wright’s over-stylized writing-directing feature, his nifty film-making class and exquisite music repertoire find a way to breakthrough.
Those cool soundtracks constantly blare from iPods as Baby—an A-1 getaway driver for an Atlanta crime virtuoso, Doc (Kevin Spacey)—attempts to thrust annoying, ringing sound of his tinnitus down. He’s always been dreaming to quit living a criminal life. His dream escalates when he finally meets a waitress, Debora (Lily James). Baby’s dream and Debora’s dream might actually fuse; but, going AWOL from crime world is a futile task.
While taciturn getaway driver film with cool soundtracks isn’t a new rendition (as Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive might suggest the same notion, too), however, Baby Driver crafts its own avant-garde style. The musical elements work better than simply adorning the film with eclectic touch, but it goes as deep as providing background circumstance to the protagonist. Every character movement, gunshot timing, tire screech and even transitional cuts are following beats of music played in the background. Even, when music is absent from the scene, ringing/buzzing noise can be heard, suggesting what Baby hears with his tinnitus.
Elgort perfectly blends into Baby’s tranquil and innocent persona. Dressing in a modern rendition of Han Solo’s fashion (remember that he used to be frontrunner to portray young Solo and also remember that Wright also had beef with Disney, too), Baby is almost always cool as he’s hiding his truest nature behind iPods and shades. At home with his deaf foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones), Baby shows his true nature; he will dance and lip-sync to his favorite tune or remix what he records from people into obscure tracks, which he copies to labeled cassettes (which signify particular moments in his life). From there, we learn of Baby’s vulnerability connected to his traumatic but unforgettable past.
Edgar Wright carefully traces all paths, all elements, as well as all events in Baby Driver to Baby’s vulnerability. Why all the songs and why all the crime-for-hire jobs can be traced back to what Baby has lost in the first place. While Baby’s budding romance with Debora is depicted as a sweet escape (including an idyllic Laundromat scene) from the non-stop ostentatious action, the core of it can be traced to his vulnerable soul.
While everything in Baby Driver revolves around Baby, supporting casts become thick backbones for the film’s splendor. Spacey’s kingpin character provides a vicious mentor figure in work to Baby, quoting Monster Inc. to describe their relationship. CJ Jones, a real-life deaf actor, adds a paternal image; while James’ Debora brings Baby closer to mother’s imagery. Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque criminals, Buddy and Darling, add voguish touch to roster—Buddy (Jon Hamm) displays alpha-male style while Darling (Eiza Gonzales) always dresses to kill. Last but not least, Jamie Foxx injects ferocious mob rule to the screen as Bats, a devil-may-care robber with a reckless team (including Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea and Lanny Joon, who mistakenly bought Mike Myers masks, instead of Michael Myers).
With great eclectic soundtracks (forgivable if you know none of it), great casts, great cinematography and neat writing, Baby Driver marks Edgar Wright’s comeback with a high-octane moving jukebox at full throttle. It’s a blaring, heart-stopping love story in car-nage, which comes as stylish as possible.