By Muhammad Nabil
Admittedly, I had my doubts when I heard Ansel Elgort was cast as the protagonist of the film. I mean, after a decent stint as Gus Waters in The Fault In Our Stars and an overall (really) whiny showcase as Caleb Prior in the Divergent series, I can safely say I wasn’t exactly thrilled after hearing that one of my favourite movie genres was about to be tainted with his bland and emotionless acting. Even the presence of Hollywood heavyweights like Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx weren’t enough to balance it out.
However in life, you occasionally want to be proven wrong. You’ve predicted the end result, but you still hope – sometimes, against hope – that it won’t turn out that day.
And I’m elated to say that with Baby Driver, I have never been happier to be proven otherwise.
The plot is relatively simple: a millennial of sorts, Elgort plays as Baby, the go-to getaway driver who relies on music to drown out his tinnitus while aiding his talent to perform ballet behind the wheel. Doc (Kevin Spacey) is an Atlanta crime boss, who never does a heist with the same crew, with the exception of Baby. His “lucky charm,” as Doc calls him. In the eyes of Edgar Wright, Baby is more of a person who defines himself through action; he makes it a point during the movie that he doesn’t actually speak much, but lets the music drive him instead. It’s very much akin to when you’re driving alone on the NKVE highway. You set up your phone to play your favourite song, and let loose to the rhythm as you blast down the road way above the legal speed limit. Only in this movie, the music in question has been given a bucketload of steroids.
Primarily placing music as the driving force of the movie is a tried and true concept is Guardians Of The Galaxy has been doing it for 2 movies now, but the differentiating factor that sets Baby Driver apart from GOTG is that the music heavily defines, rather than influences the direction and emotion of the movie. It also successfully manages to make a connection with the audience through said medium, in the sense that the intention isn’t lost in translation. What he hears is what the audience hears. The music focuses on his intentions, his emotions, so we know exactly what’s going on in his head without ever needing to second guess.
The cast too is made out of outstanding selections. Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of a cold crime boss (Doc) is what you’d expect from an impeccably dressed mastermind: clinical, detailed oriented, and a goal focused on only winning without taking unnecessary risks. Bats ( Jamie Foxx), (for which I assume is short form for batshit crazy) is a bit of a wild gun with a healthy dose of self-righteous preaching injected into his bloodstream; constantly reminding himself that the valuables he’s about to rob belong the people, in other words, taking back what’s rightfully his.
Jon Hamm (Buddy) seems like someone who can be trusted, his amicable traits and depiction of Baby as more of a friend than an accomplice speaks of his overall personality, but the charm and charisma is often blundered by acts of childishness (read: infatuation) when it comes to his wife and accomplice, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). Lily James (Deborah) brings back a whiff of Hollywood’s Golden Age, from the way her hair is made, to the way she speaks and sways, echoing the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner.
The real showpiece of the movie however is the car chase sequences. In the world of expensively modified street cars and supercars, in other words, Fast And Furious, it’s refreshing to see a wheelman choreographing his play on the streets in relatively docile cars like the Impreza and a Chevrolet Avalanche. Bang on with the music, it’s a marriage made in heaven. The synchronisation of the tunes to the intensity and furor of the car chase carries the momentum of the movie.
-SPOILERS FROM HERE ON-
Take the first scene for example. It’s easy to botch up a scene with Bellbottoms from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s playing, fast riffs and speedy transitions, but Wright shows masterclass in unifying the actions that are unfolding in the background to the consistent intensity of the track. Powerslides and city-zipping meld perfectly to the tempo of the music. The car chases are wild, but graceful. Never over-the-top, just in the right proportions. What’s more amazing is that there is barely any CGI incorporation; Wright insisted on pure camera work, and the results speak for themselves. Beautiful sweeping shots of car drifts and plenty of immensely difficult stunt driving to keep the adrenaline rushing.
This is one of the best car chase films I’ve seen to date, and I think it has the potential to go down as an Edgar Wright classic.