Every week, the folks at iTunes find a movie they like and make it available to rent for the low, low price of $0.99. I’m here to tell you whether that film is worth your hard-earned dollar.
This week, Edgar Wright takes us behind the wheel for his car chase-centric action flick, Baby Driver.
I’m a Driver
After a night of joyriding unexpectedly lands him in hot water, Baby (newcomer Ansel Elgort) is forced to spend the next few years working as a getaway driver for a local crime boss. On the cusp of clearing his debt and going straight, Baby is called back into action for one last job that’ll pair him with some seriously bad baddies (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Kevin Spacey, and Jon Bernthal amongst them). Will Baby help his nefarious cohorts pull off the score of a lifetime? Will he get to live happily ever after with his new girlfriend Debora (Lily James)? Or will his unwanted life of crime finally catch up with him? Find out in Edgar Wright’s action-packed caper flick, Baby Driver.
One More Job, And I’m Done
If you ever refer to yourself as a “movie geek,” then you probably got very excited when you read the name Edgar Wright – and for good reason. The man has, after all, been part of some of the best/funniest post-genre fare produced over the past 15 years. He’s got at least one “classic” to his name in Shaun of the Dead and one bona fide cult hit in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Still, it’s almost certain that everyday moviegoers are less than familiar with Wright’s work. So, just to bring everyone up to speed, let’s say that Edgar Wright is a filmmaker who has obscenely good taste, even better comedic timing, can make you smile/cringe/cry within a single scene, and he can do so whether he’s making a comedy, a horror flick, a cop movie, a sci-fi thriller, or a hipster video game opera.
In case you were worried, he does exactly that throughout his action heist pic Baby Driver too. As you’d expect, Wright packs the film with kick ass pop songs, whip-smart dialogue, and an endless stream of winking cinematic references as well. But it’s the unbridled, adrenalized energy he brings to Baby Driver that sets it apart from much of his prior work. Wright opens the film with a set piece that not only qualifies as the single greatest use of a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song in a movie ever, but is certain to go down as one of the greatest car chase scenes ever committed to film as well.
That’s not an overstatement, by the way. With its daring practical stunt-driving, its astonishing camerawork, and high-energy editing, that opening chase is the sort of “masterclass” moment that’s destined to be studied by cineastes for decades to come. What’s so rewarding about Baby Driver is that Wright and Co. are just getting warmed up. Though the movie settles down a bit in the wake of that chase, it never actually loses that energy more than it bottles up to explode at key moments throughout. That tactic works because Wright manages to succeed at the one thing action movies almost universally fail at; he writes a compelling narrative with genuinely intriguing characters.
At the heart of that narrative is Baby (played with a malleable, almost goofy seriousness by Elgort), a gleefully aloof young man who can do things in a car that no other mortal can. Of course, he’s got a perfectly complicated back story to boot. One that leaves hims tormented by an incessant case of tinnitus (which he drowns out by always having music playing in his headphones). Those headphones lead to some patently inspired musical moments in the film, but that back story (and not-quite disability) also allows him to work alongside some seriously seedy characters as they rob banks and generally run amok throughout Atlanta while fantasizing about running off with dream girl Debora.
With so many characters and plot twists and subplots, one might think Wright packed a little too much action into Baby Driver, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Wright’s screenplay is so thoughtfully rendered and precisely executed that every bracing moment (whether in a car or in a laundromat), and every minute detail (song choices in particular) arrives with a prescient, intoxicating energy. Wright seizes on that energy to craft a calculatingly cool little action flick that feels as impulsive as it does fateful, and as harrowing as it is heartfelt. You may find yourself feeling a bit punch-drunk by all of Baby Driver‘s hyper-stylized action and pure pop savvy, but you’re just as likely to be begging for more.
You bet it is, Baby. Packed with killer car chases, a cheeky sense of humor, and an unexpectedly prescient sense of justice, Baby Driver was not only one of the best films of 2017, it may well be one of the greatest action movies ever made. If you can’t justify a $0.99 rental fee in service of experiencing that for yourself, well, you should maybe think about adjusting your priorities.