There’s a sense of desperation that permeates throughout Baby Driver that I’m sure was intentional on the part of Edgar Wright. I felt anxious for the entirety of it’s two hour run time, because it was critical that everything turns out okay.
And that’s a strange thing to acknowledge, that characters created for the purpose of telling a single specific story, affected me to the point of disturbing my sense of reality. I was sucked into Baby Driver for want of a better term. But I shouldn’t have been, to be honest. The principal characters were given enough backstory with Ansel Elgort's Baby given the most realized identity (a given, since he’s the titular hero) but just barely. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and even Kevin Spacey play criminals with thinly sketched motivations. Yet it doesn't really matter here, they rob shit and Baby drives and for them and he wants out. That’s pretty much the narrative.
What’s really on display here is Wright’s talent as a writer, director. He’s in control of every scene of Baby Driver and it’s glorious to behold. It’s almost as if he wanted to say “I wasn’t good enough for Ant Man? Well watch this shit.” There’s so much style and personality infused into the dialogue, production value and overall shot structure that I left the theatre grinning.
From an opening credits tracking shot, it’s made very clear this is an Edgar Wright film. From the precise but quick editing style, to the absolutely bonkers soundtrack, Baby Driver was made with confidence and love for the medium. For the most part the pacing is spot on, dragging a tad in the middle, not because what’s on screen is boring by any means, it’s just that the car chases and heist scenes are that much fun.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s easy to see Wright’s love for music. A mix of Funk, Motown and a smidge of 70s Punk, the music of Baby Driver is essential to the success of the film. Sound and music are often trotted out as a great or essential aspects to certain films, but It does truly apply here. Character movements sync with the beat of Carla Davis, Dave Brubeck, Beck, Martha and the Vandellas and Queen. Take away the heist aspect and you’d have a two hour music video (which Wright should really try his hand at).
Now the negatives, which there are few. The relationship Baby forms with Deborah—portrayed by actress Lily James—I didn’t buy or really like, at first. I thought her character was annoying and unnecessary, a plot device to get the audience to relate to some sort of emotional distress for Baby. And there’s a few scenes involving the two (towards the middle) that I felt dragged just a little. However, by the beginning of a badass third act, I thoroughly enjoyed her character arc and felt like her transformation was earned instead pilfered for dramatic effect.
As well, the story is a little thin and the absence of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is noticeable. I’m not saying every Wright movie needs those two, but after watching Baby Driver it just goes to show how great the chemistry between all three guys are. While Baby Driver is funny, the comedic timing of Frost and Pegg is missing. And the sort of style of over substance complaint is easy to make here, and is certainly warranted.
Overall, I’m not sure yet as to where Baby Driver lands on my list of favourite Wright movies, but it’s certainly near the top. It will never dethrone Shaun of the Dead and I don’t think it’s good enough to beat out Hot Fuzz either. But given some time, I think Baby Driver will make a great addition to an already fantastic roster of movies.
Baby Driver: See it on opening night if you can.