‘Baby Driver’ Vivaciously, Relentlessly Pedals to the Metal (& Punk, Rock, Blues, Soul, Pop, Rap…)

Originally published June 28th, 2017 on thedistantcloseup.com

Certain films we run across in our lives are those that make us conjure the oft-thought fantasy, “I wish my life were like a movie.” Baby Driver is the next entry in Edgar Wright’s filmography that will wind up being that movie for many people, regardless of age bracket. Not only that, perhaps the most crushing wish to materialize after watching this movie is, “I wish I were that cool.”

Yes, I realize this is not a normal Wednesdepents’ Day review, but considering Edgar Wright is one of a handful of mainstream auteurs whose work consistently matches that of any filmmaker in independent cinema, I think it’s fair to ignore that this is the largest theatrical opening for any of his films. Please nod your heads so that I have your complicit agreement….

Okay, thank you.

The easiest thing to do is immediately echo what you were already hoping for: Baby Driver is quite possibly the most fun you will have at the summer box office this year. Boy, does Wright love to genre mash, as this movie is equal parts caper film, jukebox musical and wistful romance with dashes of humor scattered in between – we’ll get to that last bit later – and he successfully melds all of these aspects with uncaged ferocity and heartfelt passion. It’s loud, but in no way obnoxious; it’s quickly-edited, but also showcases a steady hand; it’s bold and brazen, and, well, perhaps not the humblest, but we’ve seen humility from Wright in how he pays tribute to his influences in all of his pictures, and this flick is no different.

Naturally, one thing we will always talk about with any Edgar Wright-directed product is style, and plenty others have already discussed it with this film. Make no mistake: Baby Driver rampages with style. Cinematographer Bill Pope has been working with Wright since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and you’ll find his camerawork is just as tightly conceived and executed here, with corresponding editing so typical of other Wright films that responds to every percussive note, whether it be sound or plot-based, with urgency and significance.

So eat your heart out, Guardians of the Galaxy; this film literally lives on the pulsating beats of its stellar soundtrack.

Though in all seriousness, and certainly nothing against James Gunn’s two Marvel features, but Baby Driver injects its chosen sonic nostalgia trips with even greater purpose and conviction, and like any good mixtape or playlist, understands when to ramp up the energy, when to slow it down and when to aim right for the heartstrings. The music and the narrative’s pacing are so inextricably intertwined that you begin to wonder how this film could ever operate with even a patch of silence – spoiler alert: it briefly does, and its impact is palpable.

Again, as per usual with any Wright movie, the protagonists are ever affable thanks to the charming presences of Ansel Elgort and Lily James, and are supported by a diverse array of eccentric side characters that lead the charge on the film’s comedic impulses. But because it is more focused on music to carry momentum, Baby Driver is differently humorous from Wright’s previous films, as those films often relied on being relentlessly joke-a-minute funny, in addition to well-choreographed set-pieces, to sustain interest – there are plenty of the latter here, as well. Here, the humor is often understated in its cleverness, matching its star protagonist’s frequent bravado, and yet more content to operate in the background rather than the forefront.

If you’re a fan of Wright’s work, it’s something you’ll notice, but you’ll be too busy bobbing your head and tapping your foot to every moment of legato and staccato that defines one of the many crashing crescendos that compel you to stand and cheer – even though it’s the beginning and the film hasn’t even gone 10 minutes. And if you’re somehow still on the fence, go support this film. Assuming you’re not like me or other folks who try to devour every film that comes out, and instead pick and choose what to see, make Baby Driver one of your few box office trips, because whatever crowd-pleasing gene there is that allows an artist to make hit after hit, Edgar Wright’s got it in spades.

Elgort’s Baby uses music to block out the noise, and we all can use Baby Driver to block out the very same thing.

4/5

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