Friday, July 7, 2017

Baby Driver

If you have the time, check out this video on YouTube by Every Frame a Painting. It breaks down why Edgar Wright is a marvelous visual director (I also recommend the other videos on the channel if you're interested in learning more about film grammar and techniques), and you'll see how Wright cinematically tells jokes and reveals character, which he does a lot of in Baby Driver (2017).

Baby Driver is the latest from Wright, who also wrote the film. It'd make for an interesting double feature with Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, if only because it plays like a quirky, comedic variation of a similar setup: an expert getaway driver gets in over his head with some nasty crooks on a job that goes wrong, has a complicated history with a mentor figure, and romances a sweet, innocent girl.

The driver is Baby (Ansel Elgort). The nasty crooks are Bats (Jamie Foxx, who has never played a more despicable character), Buddy (Jon Hamm), and Darling (Eiza Gonzelez). The mentor figure doubles as the guy organizing the job, Doc (Kevin Spacey). The sweet girl is a waitress, Debora (Lilly James who is charming in an underwritten role).

The quirkiness stems from Baby himself. An accident in his youth that killed his parents also gave him tinnitus, and to drown out the noise, he listens to music all the time. Literally, all the time, even when he's driving, being chased by police, or hearing instructions from Doc. When he's forced to carjack an old woman, he doesn't speed away until he finds a song on the radio he likes (then he tosses the old lady her purse and apologizes).

Baby synchronizes everything he does to music, even delaying the start of one robbery to start a song over. Remember that scene in Shaun of the Dead when Shaun and his friends fight off a zombie as Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" plays on the jukebox? It's like that, except through most of the movie. In fact, another Queen song pops up in Baby Driver, "Brighton Rock." He also listens to funk and soul music (I love how the movie doesn't play the same songs we've heard in other movies a hundred times already).

Other jokes are more overtly silly. Early on, Bats instructs a cohort to buy Michael Myers masks for a job and gets exasperated when the guy turns up not with the blank visage of the famed slasher but Austin Powers masks. When told he was supposed to find the mask of the killer from Halloween, the guy goes, "You mean Jason, right?"

The script falters in the last act some. Doc can't seem to decide whether he's fond of Baby or if he just considers him a tool to exploit, and the earlier quirkiness gives way to more or less straight up action and revenge.

Baby Drivers moves fast with energy and excitement, and performances are good all around. The action scenes are exceptionally well done; I felt the impact every time the car crashed into something and my heart was racing.

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