“How to explain this movie in a nutshell? Well, Baby drives the car. But music drives Baby.” That’s what director Edgar Wright had to say about this film on the opening page of the soundtrack booklet. Yes, I paid money for a physical copy of the soundtrack, a CD with 30 songs on it. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for a contrarian, negative review of Baby Driver, go watch some hack on YouTube lashing out for more followers.
However, I’m gonna knock out my gripes with the film early on, so we can focus on the fun stuff. As you’ll see, this film borders on being above reproach. There are only a couple things that come to mind as minor flaws.
First off, the plot lacks some of the complexity we’ve come to expect from high budget works. Baby Driver is an original and standalone piece, so it has to create it’s own universe and can’t rely on an overarching narrative from prequels. To its credit, the film doesn’t try to cram too much into its two hour runtime. In short, the story of Baby — our main character — is simple, yet compelling.
Without spoiling anything, the movie’s plot is as follow: Baby is forced into being the getaway driver for a heist gang and wants out, a sentiment amplified by his feelings for a girl. Baby needs to finish one last job to finish paying off his debt, but things go wrong.
I suppose the aforementioned YouTube hacks could say that the main bit of character development, the relationship between Baby and Debora, feels a little sparse. The couple goes from their first encounter to being hopelessly in love in an alarmingly short period of time. But, as I scramble to defend what I think is the best movie of 2017 so far, I’ll assert that their relationship is perfectly expressive of the two characters’ dispositions: musical, idealistic and desperate.
That’s about as negative as I can get here. Because of its “simple” plot, Baby Driver doesn’t have room to make a lot of mistakes. With that out of the way, we can get into the good stuff.
I grew up playing the earlier Grand Theft Auto games, and like any aspiring (virtual) criminal, I always wanted to do more than just boost cars. When GTA V, the most recent installment, let me brazenly rob banks and lead daring police chases, my more villainous urges were finally given a more wholesome outlet than picking on the family cat (sorry Cheese). I’ve always had a thing for cars — it’s why I put hundreds of dollars into gaudy upgrades for a second hand Mitsubishi I picked up when I was 16. So when TriStar Productions put Edgar Wright behind the wheel of a getaway driver film, my ticket was sold. I’ve been a fan of Wright since the Shaun of the Dead trilogy. Quite frankly, his new film is just him getting the long leash he deserved — and he delivered.
Despite what we’ve come to expect from action movies, the acting is great! Not only is the supporting cast fantastic — Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Eliza González and Jamie Foxx all turn in rock solid performances as expected — but Wright was able to get a surprisingly outstanding showing from Ansel Elgort, who you might know from The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. I hadn’t liked Elgort all that much before this film, but he played this role to a T.
Now you might be thinking, “Baby Driver doesn’t sound that great.” And at this point in the review you might be right… But I’ve yet to mention the music and that’s the real crux of this movie.
Baby has tinnitus, a constant ringing in his ears (or a “hum in the drum” as Kevin Spacey’s character so eloquently puts it), stemming from the aftermath of a car accident that killed both his parents. As a result, Baby’s always listening to music on his various IPods to drown out the noise and keep himself focused, and that’s the same music we hear throughout the film.
Whatever Baby is listening to is what we’re hearing in the theater. Not only that, but every scene in the movie is quite literally set to the music. Just as Baby is “driven” by his music, the film is moved by it. Baby sings along with the tracks, his car slides to guitar riffs and lyrics appear in the movie world in real time. The music alone influences this film just as much, if not more than, any single character. In fact, its what the movie is all about.
More often than not, the characters and the plot take a backseat to the jaw dropping musical integration. Every single detail in this film is hammered to rhythmic perfection. I’ve now seen the movie multiple times and on my third viewing I was still in awe of how perfectly Wright executed this idea. It’s just so good! I’d love to relate what the director did here to something we’ve seen in another film, but I’ve never seen anything like it.
Baby Driver is truly a master class in technical filmmaking. The movie is refreshingly antithetical to other box office hits in recent years. It shuns exposition and doesn’t beg for a sequel. It leaves little room for imaginative interpretation. What you see is what you get, and what you see (and hear) is astonishing.
On his website, Wright wrote (I had to include the phrase “Wright wrote,” right?) that he’s been working on this movie for the last four years. What I can say is that 1500 days doesn’t seem like enough time when considering how intricate the finished product is. Baby Driver sings Wright’s meticulous attention to detail. He is playing on another level here. If nothing else, Wright has made a movie worthy of his increasingly-respected name. There isn’t a scene I’d cut. There isn’t a scene I’d change. Baby Driver is a masterpiece — and hopefully a gateway to seeing a whole lot more from Mr. Wright.
Nicholas Smith is a rising sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org