There are several names that you may expect to see on a list of the greatest directors of all time. From the classic directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick to those from the generation that they inspired like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. However there has more talent that has arisen since then and I believe that Edgar Wright deserves to be on the list of the greats. If you don’t recognise the name, you may recognise his filmography from cult classic Scott Pilgrim Vs the World to the increasingly popular Shaun of the Dead. It seemed like he was to be boosted into the stratosphere when he was asked to pen Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man in 2015 however he soon left the project due to creative differences. This allowed him time to finally film his passion project that he had been writing since 1995 and completed in 2011. I would stipulate that the resulting picture- Baby Driver– was worth every single moment of its long development.
The story follows Baby -a getaway driver- as he is pulled into one more heist by a kingpin known only as Doc. As Baby attempts to devote time to his new relationship with waitress Deborah he also attempts to keep his criminal life a secret but as the heist goes awry he finds that keeping those lives separate is not as possible as he hoped. Ultimately Baby must defend himself and Deborah from a vindictive crew member and from the law. The cast is comprised of some of the biggest names currently working in Hollywood like John Hamm (Buddy), Jamie Foxx (Bats) and Lily James (Deborah). Although they are 3 of the key players, the is an entire revolving door of characters portrayed by some equally impressive names. John Berthnal portrays Griff, who is present for 15 whole minutes and is never seen or heard from again while Lanny Joon and Flea portray JD and Eddie No-Nose whose screentime amounts to less. Even the moderately sized part of Joseph -Baby’s adoptive father- is portrayed by a large name, though it’s not one you may recognise. His actor, CJ Jones, is a deaf actor and lifetime advocate for deaf causes who has toured with several theatre productions and taught several generations of deaf children. It is clear to me that Wright sees every character, regardless of the size of their role, as important and that he doesn’t believe in “background characters” per say. It gives Baby Driver an almost theatrical feel, as if Wright doesn’t want to draw any attention away from the plot with unnecessary extras. Nor should he with a story this good.
The true linchpin of Baby Driver and the reason that it continues to floor me every time I re-watch it is the way in which it has been constructed. Whilst almost every single film I have ever seen has the score/soundtrack added in post production, Baby Driver was entirely written and choreographed to suit the simply outstanding soundtrack. It came as no shock to discover that Wright had been inspired to write the car chase that begins his film after hearing Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and that he had written a film to shoot it. what shocks me and compels me to revisit this film is the dedication with which Wright has the film match the music. Every pan of the camera, every monologue and every gunshot match the beat perfectly, in a way that makes “oddly satisfying” videos seem a little lacklustre. The standout piece for me comes after the heist has gone awry and Baby finds himself trying to outrun the law, set to Hocus Pocus by Focus. Every time he jumps, every time his feet touch the ground, every lull in the action and every single bullet fired is perfectly in time. Even once the music ends and the gunfire is happening off-screen it still matches. There are 26 songs on the movie’s soundtrack and, as you might expect, each one sets the tone for the moment it is used. Baby is relieved to finish a mission? Easy by The Commodores. A decision is made with which Baby does not agree? Something is Wrong With my Baby by Sam & Dave. I dare say, this may be the best combination of a film and soundtrack ever done.
Then there is the driving. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of it and it is an intense joy to behold. Every turn of the steering wheel seems to provide a turn or slide that shouldn’t be possible, in part because sometimes they shouldn’t be. If a car couldn’t do something like a J-turn then it was modified to be able to. Every shot in this film is achieved through practical effects and it provides a sense of realism that is difficult to achieve otherwise. It might not have been necessary but Wright did it anyway and I can’t help but respect that kind of dedication. There have been talks of a Baby Driver 2 from almost everybody involved in the original project and I am more than okay with the possibility of that happening. However I don’t know if it will ever be able to top the sheer delight that I felt when I first watched the original. It will try, for sure, but in essence it will be repeating what makes Baby Driver such an outstanding piece of art. I feel like by reviewing a film I am suggesting that you watch it if you haven’t already bur here I will just flat out say it.
Baby Driver is phenomenal and if you haven’t seen it yet then I heavily advise that you do.
Until Next Time…