By Casey Campbell
Shaun of the Dead, a larger than life parody of the zombie genre, was released to the world in 2004. At the helm of this witty and action packed sleeper was English writer/director Edgar Wright, whose technical and comedic brilliance was just beginning to be noticed by the film world. With quick editing, flashy photography, and lightning wit, Wright had created something completely unique, even though he was retreading old ground.
Three years later, he would do the same with Hot Fuzz, which was his take on the buddy cop action genre. Hot Fuzz would lay the groundwork for his kinetic yet understandable approach to action. Through the years, his style got better and better. Each film continually grew in scope, adding technical complexities, yet staying completely engrossing and entertaining with wonderfully eccentric characters.
Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver is fantastic, like the rest of his work, and his direction is tighter than ever in some wildly choreographed action scenes.
Baby, a young orphan played by Ansel Elgort, is an immeasurably talented getaway driver, though his latest job may be his last. Told with a heavy dose of music, the story focuses on Baby’s driving jobs with mob boss Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, as well as a newly flourishing relationship with a local diner waitress named Debra, played by Lily James. The principle cast is joined by a motley crew of criminals, played by Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Eiza González.
In typical Wright-fashion, the characters are hugely entertaining, doling out lines ranging from hysterical to criminally insane. The cleverness of the dialogue is not only punctuated by the regularly occurring musical accompaniment, but underscored. Baby is afflicted with tinnitus, which makes him listen to his iPod throughout the film.
Some films fleetingly use music as a means to gain favorability from an audience, (Suicide Squad did this to an aggravated degree) but Baby Driver makes sure to utilize the music during action scenes. The gun fire builds upon the rhythmic timing in the song, and the car chases match the crescendo of the tune. A lull in a foot chase is perfectly timed with the lull in a track. Humorously, Baby even rewinds his songs if they don’t match up with his intended action. It’s so strange and fun, and it never becomes a tacky gimmick.
It’s difficult to separate the film from the filmmaker in this case, because there is clearly so much love and devotion poured into Baby Driver. Edgar Wright is not one to film a car chase the easy way: with green screen and CGI. He put the manic driving upfront and center, and it makes the action that much better. When you can see a performer doing these incredible stunts, as a way to get away from the police, it lends real tension to the story. White knuckle chases are exacerbated by the close calls and carnage that takes place on some very real cars. Not only is the driving real and impressive, but it’s gorgeously and very clearly shot. No quick cuts were used to mask any “movie magic” nor were there any gratuitous CGI stand-ins for the cars. When giving care and attention to a chase, like Wright does, it becomes more than something that has been seen in countless action movies before it. The chase becomes exciting and new.
The frantic pace of the action, coupled with the engrossing characters, script, and music, make Baby Driver the best action action movie of the summer. Here is an auteur, a director who continues to create his work, at the top of his game.
Originally published at Emertainment Monthly:
Buy here: Baby Driver [Blu-ray]