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Film Review: Baby Driver

7 July 17 words: Ash Carter

We see if Edgar Wright's highly-anticipated car-chase musical is all it's cracked up to be... 

Ansel Elgort’s eponymous teenage getaway driver plays out his life with meticulously chosen iPod playlists, never on-screen without his headphones. The music he hears resonates both audibly, serving as a constant melodic spine throughout the entire film, and visually through Edgar Wright’s carefully crafted, masterful direction in Baby Driver.

As well as providing the rhythm for his every action, music functions to help drown out the tinnitus that plagues Baby, the result of a childhood accident in which he was left orphaned. With his obsession with music matched only by his knowledge and skill behind the wheel of a car, Baby becomes indebted to local crime head Doc (Kevin Spacey), serving as the driver on an ever-changing crew (which at different times includes Jon Berenthal and Jon Hamm) assembled for local robberies, finding himself in a perpetual state of being just one more job away from obtaining his freedom. At home, he dutifully cares for his deaf, elderly foster father (CJ Jones), who yearns to see Baby do something better with his abilities.

As his life drifts towards the seemingly inescapable life of crime under Doc, Baby meets and quickly falls in love with local waitress Debora (Lily James), as they bond over their mutual love of music. With shades of Malick’s Badlands and Tony Scott’s True Romance, they dream of escaping across the country in a classic car with the perfect playlist.

It’s a film both refreshingly unique and unburdened by not taking itself too seriously.

An excellent ensemble cast, which also includes Eiza Gonzalez and a nefarious Jamie Foxx, excel under his direction, but it is doubtlessly Edgar Wright’s film. Having walked away from Marvel’s Ant-Man with integrity intact, Baby Driver is the epitome of why the Shaun of the Dead director should retain creative control over his projects. His innovation is clear from frame one: during the opening titles, Baby walks down a busy street on a coffee run in perfect unison with Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle, with graffiti, street musicians and Baby’s own movements echoing the song’s beats and lyrics with slick precision.

It’s a style that’s never more flawless than during the frequent high-action scenes, where Hocus Pocus by Focus, or Queen’s Brighton Rock (Baby’s “one killer track”) accompany feverish car chases, or the bass line of Button Down Brass’s Tequila becoming gunfire during the inevitable job that goes wrong as the film reaches it’s crescendo.

Under Wright’s ingenious direction and Elgort’s stoic, tonally perfect lead role, Baby Driver is wildly gratifying throughout its entirety. It’s a film both refreshingly unique and unburdened by not taking itself too seriously. With its enormous critical and commercial opening success sparking early rumours of a sequel, it’s clear that Baby Driver is destined to be one of the stand-out films of the year.  

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