In his first auteur solo effort, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, [almost] Ant-Man), has truly done something special with film and music.
Superman has his sunshine, Popeye has his spinach, and Baby Driver has its music. Played by a so-fresh-faced-he-must-still-pop-pesky-pimples-in-the-morning-mirror Ansel Elgort, Baby is a prodigy of a wheel man literally driven by music. Orphaned by a crash that also left him with tinnitus, he is permanently adorned with earbuds-in, and a pocket full of iPods to suit his mood and drown out the ringing in his ears. He promises his foster dad that after “one last job” he will be square with the kingpin he works for and be free from the criminal lifestyle, but things have a way of going wrong. Further complicating his attempts to escape the life is a budding love with a diner waitress, and unstable heist crew mates. People… right?
Music is so intrinsic to this film that you would not be drifting out of your lane to call it a modern-day-muscle-car-musical. While this term may get bandied about somewhat loosely, the soundtrack actually IS a living breathing character in the movie, to the extent that we fear for its life when bullets fly its way… you’ll see what I mean. This is easily the most eclectic and well-thought-out movie soundtracks using pop hits off all time, Guardians of the Galaxy be damned. To say that the film is set to the music is to vastly oversimplify; the film does not function without the music. Baby Driver is built upon the music as the clay of a sculpture is built over a wireframe. The music is the bones, and the action is the meat. Critics will call this an extended music video, with lyrics finding themselves surrealistically into the set pieces, but I would argue that while this idea was first expressed as a music video, it is a welcomed evolution to a tired/retired genre. I found the original aesthetics and fast pace set-to-music style refreshing. This is a cool movie.
[Mint Royale – Blue Song: this is the music video directed by Edgar Wright that the film idea was based off of.]
The cast is superlative. Kevin Spacey manages to expertly balance a menace that makes you hate him with an obvious paternal affection that makes you love him in the way that only he can do. Jamie Foxx is always solid, and turns up the shit-crazy in his Bats character. Lilly James’ Debora is as alluring to Baby as Elza Gonzalez’ Darling is to Buddy, Jon Hamm’s character. If I had to levy one criticism toward this film it would be the lack of development of the female characters, who (especially the former) can come off a bit flat here. In a non-stop movie perhaps their stories just weren’t important to the narrative at hand, but I would have liked a little more from the women. Speaking of Jon Hamm, his performance in this film will leave you asking: Don who?
Baby Driver is the best film you will see this summer. Baby Driver is potentially the best film you will see all year. It veers close to a Tarantino-esqe masterpiece that likes of which we have not seen at the Cineplex in a number of summers.
So get in your car, buckle up and head to see Baby Driver this weekend. Obey all traffic laws on the way there… because you won’t want to on the way home.
4 out of 4 Stars.
Baby Driver soundtrack:
1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – ‘Bellbottoms’
2. Bob & Earl – ‘Harlem Shuffle’
3. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – ‘Egyptian Reggae’
4. Googie Rene – ‘Smokey Joe’s La La’
5. The Beach Boys – ‘Let’s Go Away For Awhile’
6. Carla Thomas – ‘B-A-B-Y’
7. Kashmere Stage Band – ‘Kashmere’
8. Dave Brubeck – ‘Unsquare Dance’
9. The Damned – ‘Neat Neat Neat’
10. The Commodores – ‘Easy (Single Version)’
11. T. Rex – ‘Debora’
12. Beck – ‘Debra’
13. Incredible Bongo Band – ‘Bongolia’
14. The Detroit Emeralds – ‘Baby Let Me Take You (in My Arms)’
15. Alexis Korner – ‘Early In The Morning’
16. David McCallum – ‘The Edge’
17. Martha and the Vandellas – ‘Nowhere To Run’
18. The Button Down Brass – ‘Tequila’
19. Sam & Dave – ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’
20. Brenda Holloway – ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’
21. Blur – ‘Intermission’
22. Focus – ‘Hocus Pocus (Original Single Version)’
23. Golden Earring – ‘Radar Love (1973 Single Edit)’
24. Barry White – ‘Never, Never Gone Give Ya Up’
25. Young MC – ‘Know How’
26. Queen – ‘Brighton Rock’
27. Sky Ferreira – ‘Easy’
28. Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Baby Driver’
29. Kid Koala – ‘Was He Slow (Credit Roll Version)’
30. Danger Mouse (featuring Run The Jewels and Big Boi) – ‘Chase Me’