Film Review: Baby Driver (2017)

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017) was my film of the year when it came out. After multiple viewings, and writing an essay on its use of soundtrack, this action-packed thrill ride is a spectacle to watch. Familiar with his work on the “Cornetto Trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead, Hot FuzzThe World’s End) and cult comic adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wright is recognisable for his use of rapid editing, breakneck pacing and visually vibrant colour pallete.

With a plethora of videos online discussing the use of editing, costume and cinematography of the film, Baby Driver has become one of the most talked about movies of the last few years. Let’s find out why.


Baby Driver (2017)

DIRECTOR & WRITER: EDGAR WRIGHT
STARS: ANSEL ELGORT, JON HAMM, LILY JAMES

BabyDriver 1


Plot Synopsis (Spoiler Free)

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young and talented getaway driver trapped in the criminal underworld looking for a way out. Indebted and controlled by heist specialist Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby gets the team in and out of the crime – paying off his debt with each job. As the whole “one last job” moment draws near, Baby plans to drive off into the sunset with love interest Deborah.

The “Edgar Wright Style”

If you have eight minutes, I highly recommend a YouTube video essay by “Every Frame a Painting” titled How to Do Visual Comedy which has almost six million views and explains how Wright uses editing in his films. Although this was made in 2014 and focuses on comedy, the bulk of the video is relevant to Baby Driver and will help out if you’re new to Edgar Wright.
Click here for a link to the video (opens in a new tab).

Playful Cinematography and Music-Synced Editing

So, one of the major aspects discussed about Baby Driver is how it’s shot and edited. The film plays with soundtrack that blurs the line between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Baby listens to music 24/7 to drown a constant ringing in his ears and this is the basis for the majority of the film’s style – action synced to music. We hear exactly what Baby hears and the soundtrack is used to communicate the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. As a result, Baby Driver has a memorable soundtrack of popular songs (often from the 70’s) over a classical score. Not only does this work thematically, but this ensures that its audience are engaged and can relate to the young protagonist.

More importantly, the music is used to portray how much power Baby has. When behind the wheel, we hear active blood-pumping music with perfectly synced tire squeals and police sirens to show that everything is going according to plan. But when the tides turn and power dynamics shift (as they do a lot in this film) the soundtrack becomes sombre and, at times, menacing. If you loved the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the cast beat a zombie to death with pool cues in time with the music of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Baby Driver is essentially two hours of that viewing satisfaction.

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Great Performances All-Round

As a side note, although the focus of the film isn’t on the comedy, the script is well written and the main cast showed a great performance. I think Jamie Foxx (as Bats) is phenomenal in this movie and I’m baffled that he didn’t get much recognition for his performance at the time. Eiza González (Darling) has some of the most captivating lines in the film too and Jon Hamm (Buddy) has a great time playing the “bad but charming” type.

Clever use of Colour and Costume

I have to briefly mention the technical side of this film because Baby Driver is just so well made from a film making standpoint. Wright has often used colour and costume to visually represent elements of a character and this film is no different. As a general rule, and displayed perfectly above:

  • Baby will wear two-tones to represent his double life
  • Bats will wear red to show his reckless lust for blood
  • Darling will wear pink to exaggerate her femininity
  • Buddy will wear black to display his gritty “get the job done” mentality

For fear of spoiling key plot points, I won’t go into details for the purposes of this review. But, if you enjoy attention to detail and analysing elements of a film, Baby Driver goes beyond the expectations of a popcorn heist movie.

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Conclusion

Baby Driver is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. However, if Shaun of the Dead wasn’t such a meaningful movie to me, I’m sure this would be my favourite Wright film to date. Its playful use of soundtrack combined with the fanciful utilisation of camera movement make Baby Driver a joy to watch over and over again. The only problem are the moments where action isn’t happening.

A lot of time is dedicated to the romance between Baby and Debora which is, in my opinion, the weakest part of the film. Sure, it gave us some nice shots and it’s nice to see Baby smile for a change. Debora deserved better. Debora’s story and relationship to Baby felt tacked on and, through no fault of Lily James herself, made their scenes together the least enjoyable to watch.

Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad by a large margin and the surrounding film is too engaging to be weighed down substantially by one bad point. Baby Driver gets an ambitious 9/10 overall – leaning more toward an eight than a ten.

BabyDriver Conclusion

So I get this film is kind of old now but would you believe I made this draft back in 2017 when I was back in college? What do you think of Baby Driver or Edgar Wright’s films as a whole? Let me know in the comments below and you can find the film on Amazon Prime Video for £5.99 right now if you click here (not sponsored).

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