It’s very easy to forget that director Edgar Wright isn’t a widely known commodity in the United States. His three most famous films, Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The Worlds End, have a combined U.S. box office of less than $64 million. For context, the newest Transformers movie, The Last Knight, made $68 million in its first weekend alone at the U.S. box office.
Of course, as many film fans will know, it was meant to be the comic adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World back in 2010 that would have introduced Edgar Wright to American eyes. And yet, it was not to be. With the U.S. box office tally just squeaking past the $30 million mark, and his later firing from the Ant-Man movie, it seemed Wright was forever destined to only be known to the hardcore geek crowd.
But such talent wasn’t going to be ignored by Hollywood forever, and with Baby Driver zooming onto screens this weekend, will the name Wright finally be spoken in the same respected tones as Nolan, Anderson or Tarantino?
Working with the mysterious Doc (Kevin Spacey) in order to pay back a debt, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a talented getaway driver, using his incredible skill to outmanoeuvre the authorities after robbing banks and other financial institutions.
Due to a car accident when he was a little boy, Baby has been struck with a permanent case of tinnitus. In order to tune out the constant ringing he uses a range of iPods, adopting the music not only to relax, but also to focus during the high tension chases.
But he soon meets a local waitress, Deborah (Lily James), and finds they share dreams of good music and the open road. With the money he’s earned from the robberies and a new girl at his side, he can honestly see the normal life he’s always wanted awaiting him.
But Doc isn’t going to let his best crew member go that easily…
In the same way that Shawn of the Dead could honestly be classed as a Rom-Zom-Com, Edgar Wright has once again taken three disparate genres and blended them together in a cinematic outing almost unrivalled this side of the year 2000.
Yes, it may not be as action packed as Mad Max: Fury Road, or as musical as La La Land, or even as comedic as Wright’s previous work. Baby Driver, however, is a film greater than the sum of its parts. A sense of synergy almost perfectly crafted through the incredible precision of editing, direction, cinematography and action. Fast and the Furious, eat your heart out!
Indeed, it’s because of Wright’s remarkable skill as a director that he has managed to make a genre destroying piece for the silver screen; and was never once held back by using a plotline that, on the surface, seems rather pedantic in nature.
Let’s be honest, the basis crux of Baby Driver is hardly original. A criminal wanting to lead a normal life? An getaway driver who’s a god behind the wheel? The one final heist before he can get out? The beautiful girl that can show him all that he’s missed? But Baby Driver is so much more. Just imagine 1978’s The Driver making love to The Transporter series, while accompanied by the dulcet tones of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. That’s Baby Driver in a nutshell!
As the lead, Elgort shines brighter than most, bringing shades of young Harrison Ford to his performance. Whilst not the most expressive actor on screen, certain aspects of his character arc explain this away, leaving the audience to wallow in the bucket-loads of charisma he throws at us, such as when he grooves down the street to “Harlem Shuffle.”
Backing up Elgort are a supporting cast so talented that it makes The Lord of the Rings trilogy look like a student stage show. Admittedly, most of the supporting characters as written barely rise above a cliché; but Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal and Lily James all imbue their roles with so much passion and energy, there ends up being more than enough to keep the attention held.
Of course, the third strand of this Action-Comedy-Musical is the soundtrack. While there’s no single scene as memorable as Shaun of the Dead’s zombie beat-em-up to the lyrical masterpiece that is Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now; it can’t be denied that every beat, every word and every action in Baby Driver was designed to be based around its musical accompaniment. In that sense there’s an almost perfect, dream-like state to the proceedings as action blends magically with the music.
With the release of Baby Driver, Edgar Wright has finally done it! He’s broken into Hollywood!
But more importantly, in a world increasing reliant on sequels and spinoffs curated by producers only looking at the bottom line; Baby Driver represents so much more than just a good film. It is proof that a person with a singular vision and a strong team can still create a well-executed genre film, worthy of standing alongside other summer blockbusters.
Mr Wright, I salute you.