As someone who’s not really a fan of…anything written, produced, directed, or even touched by Edgar Wright (I blame him partially for the disappointment that is Ant-Man, which I will continue to argue was the beginning of the end of the Marvel craze, and don’t even get me started on the catastrophe that is Scott Pilgrim) I will come right out and say that Baby Driver has ALMOST made it into my Top Ten (explanation included). With a very clever script, fantastic soundtrack, and a star-studded cast, this easily could be Wright’s pivot into quality cinema.
From the moment the screen opens on Baby and the crew, we are met with a rush of adrenaline, provided by the fast paced soundtrack blasting out of Baby’s earphones (whoever the sound mixers were did a fantastic job with directional sound) and Baby’s incredible driving skills. While Baby’s life of crime helps him get out of debt from crime boss Doc (played by incomparable Frank Underwood…err Kevin Spacey), he meets Debora, a sweet waitress in a diner Baby’s mother may or may not have once worked for. As their romance progresses, the stakes suddenly heighten: Doc has one last job for Baby, and he must agree to it in order to keep Debora safe.
This job is much different from the past, as things go awry from the get-go. Bat, the lethal hit man involved in one of the past heists who shot a security guard and left Baby reeling from the violence, royally screws up their arms deal, killing everyone but Doc’s team in the process. As tensions in the team increase and almost everybody wants to kill someone, Baby finds a way out of this mess that will wash his hands clean of the heist and keep Debora safe…or so he thinks…
The soundtrack alone is worth noting here. While most films have breaks in music and use silence to an advantage when necessary, I can’t even think of a time that there was complete silence in digetic sound (is it digetic though? Does the fact that mostly only Baby hears it change that? This is like sound inception!) While it didn’t go unnoticed, it certainly didn’t drag the film down: the pacing, from the music to the lines to the camera cuts makes your heart pound from start to finish. Speaking of camera, this has to be Bill Pope’s finest work thus far. The camera, remaining for the most part solely the audiences’ eyes, twists and turns and matches shit to shit you didn’t even think of matching. And when the pace gets too fast, we are rewarded for keeping up with elegant long takes of tense moments and suave dance moves.
While the pacing of Baby Driver makes it seem like the writing is without flaw, one of my biggest complaints is the lack of development for the rest of the crew. Sure, we see Bat quickly descend from a wisecracking heister into pure villainy toward a bystander that’s just trying to get his dose of vigilante justice, and we even see a range of emotion from Jon Hamm’s Buddy, but my biggest concern is Debora’s flat character. The picturesque small town girl with a troubled home life has become a staple in almost every genre, and I was craving a sudden flip of the script where Debora is a Narc, or kills someone, or something besides being the doe-eyed damsel in distress. Maybe it could be attributed to Wright never being a woman, but I’m leaning more towards it being a common plight in his writing that he can only write stereotypical women, as Scott Pilgrim plainly shows.
Aside from that serious error in screenwriting, Baby Driver has certainly earned mine as well as other critics’ respect. If you have a chance to see it (and are willing to spend the $20 a ticket it now costs to go see a movie) it’s definitely worth the watch. PS, keep a look out for easter eggs throughout.
Score: 8 out of 10