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19 August 2017

Review: Edgar Wright's Baby Driver

Probably best known for his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for a series of films dubbed ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’ (Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), Edgar Wright, in my opinion, is one of the most talented directors in today’s film world. A director unparalleled in his style, his films are witty and eccentric with his idiosyncratic style boasting a love for visual gags and gratuitous violence. With their nods to the sci-fi genre and the downright absurdity that parallels films such as An American Werewolf in London, his films are somewhat symptomatic of ironically low-budget B-movies. Wright has always been a fan of crossing the boundaries of genre, often pairing his edgy comedic style with visual language from old school horror and sci-fi films, and his new release is no exception.

Whilst Wright has certainly seen success with his previous films and he is a known aficionado of pulp cinema, one can’t exactly call him a household name. However, his new film, Baby Driver, could be set to change that. Fourteen years ago, Edgar Wright explored the utterly innovative and individual premise of a music-obsessed getaway driver with a music video for the band Mint Royale. The original concept had Noel Fielding assume the position of quirky protagonist, but the recent film sees Ansel Elgort take on the role, one that might be his best yet. The format of the pre-incarnation of Wright’s vision immediately established the integral bond between music and visuals often employed in his films. Its careful and seamless blend of action and music means that Baby Driver can almost be credited as being a modern musical. Protagonist ‘Baby’ lives his life to the melodies of songs; simple tasks such as getting coffee earn themselves a soundtrack. Not to mention that all heists are choreographed to the perfect song choice found in Baby’s extensive collection of iPods.

In musicals, dialogue is often replaced by song and this is true in the case of Baby, a man of few words. His lack of verbal communication is something picked up on multiple times throughout the film. The music speaks for him; it keeps his tinnitus at bay, it allows him to get to know Debora (his love interest played by Lily James), it allows him to complete his getaway jobs and it allows him to connect with his dead mother. His life is orchestrated by whichever iPod he chooses to pick up that day and music is granted a starring role in the car-chase thriller. Another example of Wright’s affinity for genre-bending, Baby Driver gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘musical’.

Edgar Wright’s snappy directing style is perfectly suited to the energetic plot filled with action sequences, endearing moments of blossoming romance, a witty script and a stellar cast. Baby Driver sees Kevin Spacey as the menacing crime boss Doc, the last man you would want to be indebted to, but alas, Baby is. Alongside him stand Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, to name a few of the criminals Baby is at the hands of.

All performances are rife with comedic wit blended unsettlingly with threatening menace, and whilst the ensemble cast works for the most part, I do take issue with Debora. A character as elusive as her eponymous song titles, Debora isn’t given much substance beyond being Baby’s love interest. The narrative gives us glimpses into her life but quickly snatches them away, meaning it is hard to become invested in her character. A definite shame considering the potential evident in her charming personality.

Already garnering a 97% scoring on Rotten Tomatoes as well as innumerable five star reviews, Baby Driver is firmly asserting itself as one of the best films of 2017. Its stylish direction paired with a killer soundtrack make for another successful Wright film, the level of which he certainly deserves.

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