Editor’s note: This review contains very mild spoilers.
After Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man (2015) contract fell through, it’s safe to say a lot of us were disappointed that it might be a while before we would get another film by this creative madman. Thankfully, Wright wrote and directed Baby Driver (2017) in such a surprisingly short time that we got our fix of adrenalin-fuelled hilarity only two years (almost to the day) after the release of said superhero film.
Illustrated by the protagonist’s character arc, a central theme or lesson of Baby Driver is that once our past catches up with us, there’s nowhere left to look but ahead, hence why at the start of the film we see flashbacks of Baby’s (Ansel Elgort) parents’ death after a car crash. Eventually, these flashbacks are substituted for sequences showing Baby’s future with the girl of his dreams, Debora (Lily James), but before he gets there he has to do one last job for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a mob boss, along with a team of uncontrollable criminals: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Naturally, chaos ensues as Baby has doubts about whether he can go through with this job. Just as our protagonist is uncertain of his fate, so are we.
This film surprised me at every turn. Not only is the writing impeccable, but the directing, sound design, and editing are all so tight from the very first scene. It’s impossible to not be drawn into this world. That being said, some of the outlandish style seen in Wright’s previous films like Hot Fuzz (2007) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) is noticeably absent from his latest feature, which made the film feel a bit more subdued in its stylistic approach to storytelling.
There were, however, still some classic Edgar Wright tropes, most notably the timing of action to music – something we saw briefly in the brilliant scene in Shaun of the Dead (2004) when the protagonists hit a zombie with pool cues to the beat of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Just so, in Baby Driver, there is a sequence where lyrics from a diegetic song appear in perfect timing as graffiti on the walls that Baby passes on his way to get coffee.
Overall, Baby Driver wasn’t the film I had expected from Edgar Wright – with more of a focus on the action than the comedy – but that didn’t at all stop me from enjoying it. The writer-director has proven again and again that he has a knack for storytelling through visual style, and Baby Driver is no exception.
by Sam Packer
Baby Driver will be showing at the Gulbenkian from Saturday 5th – Tuesday 8th August 2017