Drive On, Maestro, Drive On
There’s a great deal of publicity screeching about, burnout tyre smoke and doing attention seeking doughnuts for Edgar Wright’s latest base jumping directorial leap into the filmic entertainment world. One of the main things about Edgar’s work is you’ll never be sold short on one of his movies, he really knows how to play, have huge amounts of fun and entertain in a nerdingly knowing but lovingly highly respectful way to all that has inspired him over the years, he just wants to turn his VHS mixtape up to 11, and pay it all back with a giggling smile.
Though his canon is supersaturated in comedy, his latest expansion is far more into the world of drama than he has ventured before, and it works incredibly well, whilst still bringing wonderfully vibrant and idiosyncratic elements to not just rehashed inspirations. He always made things look cool, but they were more often for laughs, now they look cool, just to be bloody cool, and they are, in a wonderfully confident way.
‘Baby Driver’ (2017) liberally wears it’s influences like bumper stickers, or indeed the names of these movies could be written on the sun visor across the windscreen of the car he’s just stolen (‘The Driver’ 1978 moment, ‘The Reservoir Dogs’ 1992 moment etc). That both works for and against the movie. There’s no con going on, besides the actual story line, the influences are openly spoken about and rightly celebrated in interviews for the movie. I hold these movies (and a great many more) in great reverence, and it’s not that they are untouchable, far from it, I just kept drifting off and noting to myself that I need to re watch all these films.
What is an outstanding success though is how Edgar uses his notebook of inspirations and the mixtape of songs he was listening too while scribbling all these notes. Though he hasn’t really created another comedy, it’s really funny at times, but he has swapped the sweep of a punch line for the sweep of movement on screen in complete sync with the soundtrack, and it’s incredible to experience.
This unison isn’t so apparent in the trailer. But when it’s overtly introduced in the opening bank robbery, it’s mind-blowing. Everything is cool looking like a standard heist movie, but when Baby (Ansel Elgort) presses ‘Play’ and begins his dance with the ENTIRE world via his curated playlist, the entire movie becomes a waltz of cars, bullets, lines and love, with Baby conducting it all.
Baby is a driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey), who he’s indebted to for some previous naughty shenanigans. Doc is a criminal of a managerial capacity in that he organises heists for various not so very nice folk. Baby is the seemingly innocent lucky charm who brings success to these projects. He lost his parents in a car crash when he was a kid and has used music to drown out his tinnitus (as a result of the accident), his pain, but also to sweep, shuffle and Fred Astaire his way through life, be it dancing with the world behind a tray of coffees, a steering wheel or mixing decks. When Baby presses play, the world is a dance floor and driving is his mating ritual.
It’s all incredibly electrifying and great fun as the standard ‘one last job’ aspect of course goes a tiny bit/MASSIVELY blood splatteringly wrong. To an extent all the elements are fairly standard though very well conceived and presented. A checklist of extraordinary characters are on board for all the capers, and wonderfully played by all concerned and the burgeoning relationship between Baby and Debora (Lily James) has youthful echoes of David Lynch’s ‘Wild At Heart’ (1990) with Sailor and Lula. They have dreams they want to drive off into, but the world keeps dropping speed bumps and bullets in their way.
Despite the ingredients being familiar, it’s the chef’s approach that is his signature and there is some great delights on the menu, both visually and soundtrack wise which wholly backs up Wright’s comments that it is to an extent a musical, where every sound and track contributes to and moves the story forward. Even before the opening credits roll, there is the hum similar to tinnitus ringing out in the speakers, we are immediately dropped in Baby’s world, that hum returns every time he doesn’t have his headphones in too. There are extraordinary levels of attention to details and sonic synching that will bare multiple and frequent viewings.
There was still something rumbling under the hood throughout that I couldn’t put my finger on that stopped it reaching pole position, but ANY movie that puts Queen’s ‘Brighton Rock’ in the soundtrack (one of the greatest songs EVER!!!) is a winner in my eyes, and ears.
8/10 ‘Baby Driver’ is in UK cinemas now.