Friday, 7 July 2017

Film Review: Edgar Wright doesn't miss a trick in the kinetic Baby Driver


Almost every one of Edgar Wright's films makes claim to be his best something: while I'm not a huge lover of the film, Shaun of the Dead is his most inspired idea; my all time favourite comedy, Hot Fuzz is far and away his funniest feature; a film I expected to hate but ended up loving, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is his zaniest, weirdest offering. His latest film, Baby Driver, follows suit - this is Wright's slickest, coolest feature to date. That might sound like small praise compared to everything else, but believe me when I say it isn't. Baby Driver oozes style and it's drenched in an unmistakable coolness - it's quite simply brilliant.

Baby (Ansel Elgort, enthusiastically terrific) is a getaway driver for a small network of bank robbers. More than that, he's the best getaway driver they've ever known. He has some kind of deal with ring leader Doc (Kevin Spacey, reliably awesome) that binds him into working for them, until he eventually completes his final job and is released. He meets a girl, Debora (Lily James, quietly likeable), and the two hit it off instantly. Everything seems to be coming together for Baby until he's pulled back into the getaway business on worse terms than before, his work life and his personal life clashing in potentially dangerous ways.

The getaway driver isn't really a mode of film, it's a character type. We've seen these kinds of characters before, it wasn't all that long ago Ryan Gosling was embarking on similar adventures in the equally stylish Drive. In Wright's hands, however, it becomes so much more than that - he turns getaway driving into a genre, into a style. Baby Driver's story feels like it could probably have been told a thousand times before, but it's the way in which Wright tells this story that the film hits such dizzying heights.

For starters, he ensures that not a single moment of his film is wasted. If the story isn't moving forward, he's having some fun with his characters, or fleshing out their backstories, or establishing their dynamics with each other. There's not a single weak link in terms of both cast and character, everyone here is thrilling to watch in some form or another - there's never a moment where you long for a previous character to come back and reignite your interest, each new person on screen is just as captivating and interesting as the last. It's to Wright's credit that this works, but his cast are all on their A-games as well - Elgort, Spacey and James are all infectiously great, and supporting turns from Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonz├ílez are equally as memorable.

Baby Driver needs to work on multiple levels though, what good are great characters if you have no idea what to do with them? The film has splutterings of action throughout its first half, but it soon explodes into a frenzy of car chases, shootouts and violent deaths - and Wright directs the hell out of it all. He blends his music with his action seamlessly, creating something so awesomely pleasing you won't be able to stop yourself grinning from ear to ear. The less said about Baby Driver's final act the better - the film's promotional material is smart in how little it actually reveals - but rest assured it lives up to all that came before. It's loud, fast paced and utterly thrilling - and even quietly rather emotional.

As well as just appearing cool on screen, though, Baby Driver is astonishingly technical. The film's editing is like a labyrinth of ingeniousness - the rapidity that Baby Driver cuts at is awe-inspiring, but it's the clarity of the editing here that truly knocks you out. Even when Wright is cutting multiple times a second, you can follow every beat without difficulty. Each action scene is engineered and choreographed beyond comprehension, but never at the expense of the film's longing for coolness. Baby Driver wants to be cool, it needs to be cool. It can be very easy for something cool to slip into something try-hard when you can see the work being put in, but Baby Driver never makes that mistake - this is an effortlessly well crafted film.

Much like everything Wright puts his name on, Baby Driver is rich with detail, to the extent that rewatches are more of an inevitability than an invitation. It's simply impossible to soak up everything he gives you here with only one viewing, which just makes diving back into this adrenaline soaked world again and again seem even more exciting. Wright is a director who knows exactly what film he wants to make and just goes out there and makes it, and that isn't exactly an easy thing to do in today's studio system. Baby Driver proves you can have something as crowd pleasing as it is original. There is something in here for everyone, and all of it is sublime. Oh, to have this man's imagination.


In A Sentence

Thrillingly original and stylish to a fault, Baby Driver finds both Edgar Wright and his reliably slick ensemble at the very top of their game, crafting something as unashamedly cool as it is technically impressive.


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