If this movie inspires a new genre of ‘bullets n’ beats’ I’m going to die happy.
Baby Driver (2017) is an ‘action musical’ written and directed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, the Cornetto Trilogy). It stars Ansel Elgort as Baby, a young music loving orphan that gets coerced by crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) to become his regular getaway driver thank’s to Baby being “a devil behind the wheel”. But as the criminal underbelly pulls him deeper, Baby longs to escape with newfound girlfriend Debora (Lily James) before one final heist seals his fate.
If this is Edgar Wright’s therapy after the debacle around Ant-Man, feel free to kick him off more movies in the future (not actually, he’s a great director). This is clearly a passion project for the auteur, and anything with this level of invention and originality getting a wide release is worth celebrating. It also helps that Baby Driver is potentially the best film so far this year and even tries to pioneer a new genre.
What I refer to is how Wright manages to merge the music and choreography of musicals with the violence and fast pace of action. A killer hard rock soundtrack permeates throughout Baby Driver, giving the entire film a powerful sense of rhythm and energy that makes the incredible action scenes play like an awesome music videos. Bullets fly in time with the beat, cars screech out their own choreography and the music never stops blaring in some of the best car chases and shootouts this year. Its a feat of style that distinguishes itself from Wright’s filmography while firmly feeling familiar to fans of his work.
This is all centred around an incredibly impressive cast. Ansel Elgort is brilliant in the core role of Baby, perfectly embodying the quirks that make him fascinating while also selling his arc and struggles that give the movie dramatic weight. The other players of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are all on their A-game as well, even if Foxx hamms it up a little too much at times. Lily James and Eiza González also both deliver great performances, but are unfortunately short-shrifted by this very much being a boys club. And even if the romance here is archaic as gender dynamics go, James’ and Elgort’s chemistry is palpable and infectious enough to sell these two young lovers making some questionable decisions together.
For such an immaculately constructed movie, its unfortunate that the speeding pace takes a bit of a nose-dive in the second half of the movie, before finally picking up for a thrilling and balls-to-the-walls climax. If I haven’t stressed this enough so far, the action in this movie is bloody fantastic. Its quick-cutting certainly, but consistent care is given to orienting the viewer in the scene so you always know whose where, who they’re shooting at and where they’re going. This is action done right, and with a few long takes and great editing thrown in it rivals John Wick: Chapter 2 for the best action movie this year.
Hell, it rivals every other movie for being the best of 2017. Baby Driver is a rock n’ roll infused shot of adrenaline to the senses that will likely go down as one of Edgar Wright’s best and hopefully the inspiration for many more ‘action musicals’ in the future, because now that’s something I desperately need in my life.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Must-see
True Believers (Edgar Wright): Must-see