Sunday, July 16, 2017
Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is the story of a getaway driver who is being forced to work for a drug kingpin to do a job as things go wrong. The film is an ode to getaway driver film genre with elements of the musical as its protagonist has to listen to music during his job due to damages in his ear. Starring Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, and Kevin Spacey. Baby Driver is an exhilarating and majestic film from Edgar Wright.
The film revolves around a young man who is a getaway driver for robbers as he works under the service of a drug kingpin he owes a debt to as he’s close to finally paying off the debt until he’s given a dangerous job where things become intense. It’s a film with a simple story yet it plays into someone who likes to keep things simple as he listens to different kinds of music when he drives due to the fact that he’s got severe tinnitus in his ears due to a car accident when he was a kid that claimed the life of his parents. His job is to just be a getaway driver and get a small cut for his services and that is it while he lives with a deaf elderly he cares for as he also falls for a waitress at a local diner. Edgar Wright’s screenplay definitely owe a lot to crime and chase films but there’s elements of the musicals and fantasy in the film though it’s all set in this high-octane reality that the film’s titular character (Ansel Elgort) is living in.
Yet, Baby is someone that always carry around an iPod to listen to whatever music to display the mood or environment he’s in as his boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) would call him for an assignment as he would hire the people for the job and all Baby needs to do is drive and listen to the music. Though there would be people that Doc would hire constantly such as the couple Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez, respectively) who like what Baby does. Things change when Doc hires the very psychotic Bats (Jamie Foxx) for a job with two other men with Baby as the getaway driver as it becomes very violent. It’s a chilling moment just as Baby was experiencing something new in his life as he befriends the waitress Debora (Lily James) as they bond through music. Unfortunately, Baby’s attempt to leave his life as a getaway driver has him dealing with Doc about a job that is even more dangerous as it includes the service of Bats who has made Baby very uneasy.
Wright’s direction is definitely stylish not just for its approach to action but also treating it as if it is this unconventional musical with the music from Baby’s iPod as its soundtrack. Shot on location in Atlanta as it is a character in the film, Wright creates a film that uses the city as this modern-day backdrop that is quite grimy yet has an air of excitement in its nightlife and mixture of different cultures in hip-hop, country, and rock. While Wright would use wide shots for not just establishing the locations but also in scenes that play into the world that Baby is in as he has a routine in what he does in the aftermath of a robbery as it’s told in an intricate tracking shot with careful choreography and movement with the help of choreographer Ryan Heffington. Wright’s direction favors more intimate moments in some of the locations in and around Atlanta as well as a few sets and what goes on inside a car which Baby is often behind the steering wheel choosing the right song for the chase. Wright’s approach to the music isn’t to use the music as a crutch to help tell the story but rather as some form of accompaniment to express whatever mood that Baby is in and what he needs to concentrate in his job due to his tinnitus.
Wright would also create moments that don’t involve music as it play into the meetings led by Doc about what to do with the job but also these eerie moments that play into the growing tension between Baby and Bats as the former is uneasy about the latter. Wright would create some entrancing compositions that has him put the actors in a certain position for the frame as it help add to some of the drama as well as bits of humor. There are also moments where Wright would inject bits of fantasy in a key scene that play into the sense of hope that Baby wants with Debora but it’s always clashing with this high-octane reality that is quite violent with lots of gunplay and chaos. All of it to the tune of something which feels right for the scene as it also has this offbeat approach to the musical. Overall, Wright creates a sensational and lively film about a getaway driver who uses music as an escape from his life of crime.
Cinematographer Bill Pope does excellent work with the film’s cinematography to capture the look of Atlanta in the daytime exteriors with its sunny and colorful look with some gorgeous lighting for some of the interiors including the scenes set at night. Editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss do incredible work with the editing with its usage of rhythms to help play into the music as well as using fast-cuts for some of the chases without deviating into the chaotic speed-editing of typical action films. Production designer Marcus Rowland, with art directors Nigel Churcher and Justin O’Neal Miller as well as set decorator Lance Totten, does fantastic work with the look of the apartment home that Baby shares with his deaf foster father Joseph as well the place where Doc does his meetings and the diner that Debora works at. Costume designer Courtney Hoffman does nice work with the clothes from the waitress dress that Debora wears to some of the stylish clothing of Darling and Bats.
Visual effects supervisor Shailendra Swarnkar does terrific work with some of the visual effects as it relates to some of the action and chase scenes where it definitely look real without having to do too much in order to make it feel real. Sound designer Julian Slater does amazing work with the sound as it is a highlight of the film in its approach to mixing and editing to hear Baby is hearing in total silence as well as the way sound is presented in certain moments of the film. The film’s music by Steven Price is wonderful for its mixture of low-key electronic music, hip-hop, and orchestral bombast to create a thriving score that help play into the suspense while music supervisor Kirsten Lane creates a phenomenal soundtrack that features an array of music from acts such as Queen, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Damned, the Beach Boys, Beck, T-Rex, Simon & Garfunkel, Barry White, Young MC, Bob & Earl, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Googie Rene, Carla Thomas, Dave Brubeck, Alexis Korner, The Incredible Bongo Band, Martha and the Vandellas, Blur, Focus, Sky Ferreira, the Commodores, Kid Koala, Danger Mouse with Run the Jewels and Big Boi, Sam & Dave, and Golden Earring.
The casting by Francine Maisler is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Killer Mike and Outkast’s Big Boi as a couple of patrons at a posh restaurant, Jon Spencer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a prison guard, filmmaker Walter Hill as a courtroom interpreter, Lance Palmer as Baby’s father in the flashbacks, Viviana Chavez as a diner waitress, Hal Whiteside as the diner cook, Brogan Hall as Doc’s nephew, Allison King as a mail teller, Andrea Frye as a woman Baby reluctantly carjacks, Hudson Meek as the young baby in the flashbacks, and Sky Ferreira as Baby’s mother in the flashbacks whom he adored. Other notable small yet memorable performances include Paul Williams as a notorious arms dealer known as the Butcher, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Lanny Joon as a couple of robbers working with Bats, Jon Bernthal as a robber in the first heist in Griff who often questions Baby’s role in the robbery, and CJ Jones as Baby’s deaf foster-father Joseph whom Baby communicates with through sign language and music. Eiza Gonzalez is fantastic as Darling as a smooth-talking yet cool woman who can throw down as well as be quite scandalous as she is also Buddy’s wife.
Jon Hamm is excellent as Buddy as a man that loves to rob banks and get its rewards as he also loves his wife Darling where it shows what kind of man he is when he knows she’s been harmed. Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Doc as a drug kingpin who is Baby’s boss as a man who doesn’t bullshit as Spacey brings a dry-wit to his performance where he can be intimidating but also sympathetic. Lily James is amazing as Debora as this kind-hearted diner waitress who befriends Baby where they share an interest for music as well as wanting a life with no complications. Jamie Foxx is incredible as Bats as this very ruthless and psychotic criminal who has no qualms in killing people in order to get his money as he likes what Baby does but also despises Baby for his sense of morals. Finally, there’s Ansel Elgort in a remarkable performance as Baby as this getaway driver with severe tinnitus in his ears which he drowns out through music as he copes with being in the world of crime and his desire to get out to start a new life only to be put into a situation that is troubling as it’s a very restrained yet charismatic performance from Elgort.
Baby Driver is a spectacular film from Edgar Wright. Featuring a great cast, a phenomenal music soundtrack, a thrilling script, amazing locations, and top-notch work in the editing and sound. It’s a film that is very unconventional in its blend of action, suspense, humor, and music as it plays with all sorts of genre while being something that is totally of its own. In the end, Baby Driver is a tremendous film from Edgar Wright.
Edgar Wright Films: (A Fistful of Fingers) - Shaun of the Dead - Hot Fuzz - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - The World's End
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