BABY DRIVER (2017, directed by Edgar Wright, 112 minutes, USA)
BY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY When Youtube first began playing adds for Edgar Wright’s new crime and car flick, Baby Driver, I will admit I was a little upset that they seemed to have made a glaring omission by not including Simon & Garfunkel’s eponymous song anywhere in the trailer. “Just where do these jokers get off?” But, before I could take to social media to bemoan the state of modern cinema, I decided to do a little digging. What I found there more than satisfied me. In fact, it whet my appetite, because no matter what kind of musical background you hail from, you’re almost certain to find tunes you’re familiar with, and maybe even something to expand your horizons. This movie is all about the music. Driving music, dancing music, even ‘hex music,’ as one character puts it; if this movie doesn’t win awards for sound design, it is a criminal oversight.
And what is it about crime movies that makes them often so sharp, so well-written? This is one of the best written movies I’ve seen in a long while. It’s like the early Tarantino films, when they weren’t dragged down by the excessive swearing. It’s like an early Guy Ritchie without the Cockney accents. This movie is the unholy lovechild of Drive and The Commitments; the babyfaced protagonist exudes the effortless teenage cool you almost had, and the taste of a true musical gourmand.
While the plot is fairly straightforward, with castaways and criminals all trying to find some escape from the lethal thrall of capital by amassing enough of a fortune to drive away from their problems, the characters feel real, even at their most outlandish. Their problems certainly are real, and they suck you in and earn your sympathy. The line between villain and hero is clear, but it can be crossed back and forth. Redemption, the film tells us, can be earned, but not if you go looking for revenge at the same time.
Baby Driver really has to be seen to be understood, and probably on the biggest screen possible. The colors are bright, the visuals are clever, and the camerawork is dynamic. Violence and meditation punctuate each other perfectly in this fast-paced joyride. You can break it down on a symbolic level, of course, but you don’t have to. It stands just as well on its own as a well-written, well-acted, and well-directed addition to the library of crime cinema.