Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Baby Driver

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. 

With Baby Driver, Edgar Wright has made a movie about music. About the way that some people require music in their lives. But this film is a movie about obsession: a long drive to a cute romance. A romantic musical disguised as a car-chase thriller. Baby Driver combines the action fantasies of Hot Fuzz with the pop sensibilities of Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Between Wright’s fingers Ansel Elgort’s Baby is charming and beautifully vulnerable. You know in your belly that this life is not made for him. In real life, obsession can be an unflattering trait. In movie characters, however, it is golden, resulting in single-minded protagonists who are crystal clear about what they want, leaving little room for conflict or contradiction to distract them from their goals. Baby’s character reminds me of a slightly mellower version of Ryan Gosling’s stoic Drive. Ansel Elgort proves adorably awkward around women, especially Lily James’ character, Debora. And let me say that ladies have always loved a damaged good guy like Baby, with his childhood trauma, mommy issues, and bad-boy streak.
Now, instead of simply being a weird kid with a savant-like sense for music, he becomes a modern-day Romeo, a watered-down version of the one Leonardo DiCaprio played two decades back. And much as Baz Luhrmann did in that contemporary retelling.

That said, the supporting cast of characters is one of the film’s biggest strengths. Kevin Spacey’s Doc is full of menace, yet oddly paternal and gifted with some of the best one-liners of the film. Partners in crime Buddy and Darling are played by Jon Hamm and Eiza González to just the right side of clichéd comedic perfection. Indeed, she is all acrylic nails and gold hoop earrings, blowing pink bubbles while breathlessly urging Buddy to kill for her. Buddy is an ex-Wall Street guy who ran off with his favourite stripper; with Hamm turning in a third-act performance that is so wonderfully deranged you feel Don Draper spinning in the earth below his feet. Last but not least, Jamie Foxx rounds it out as a nihilistic career thief Bats.
Though, the only real flaw - and let’s deal with that now - lies with the almost-Lynchian Deborah. She is the perfect outlet for Baby’s unspoken desires, but often has little agency of her own which erased the only chances to add depth to her character lost.

The extraordinary thing about Baby Driver is obviously in the first minutes of the remarkable opening sequence. An exquisitely choreographed car chase set-piece, it becomes apparent that this is not a film just base on music. And so, kicks off the glorious final hour: a tightly choreographed work of violence, action, drama and, yes, love. A combination that Wright manages to get just right; a film meticulously, ambitiously laid over the bones of carefully chosen tracks. It is as close to a car-chase opera as you will ever see on screen. In fact, it is not just the action sequences that strike a chord. The opening titles find Baby doing an on-foot coffee run to the beats of Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle, lyrics magically appearing on walls and signs in a scene as seamless as the opening freeway dance from La La Land 

However, Wright's script goes through a lazy stretch as it contrives its complications, but genre conventions carry them past this rough patch, especially since, by this point, we're fully invested in the innocent love story that can't really begin until Baby gets out of trouble. In their scenes together, Elgort's still-unhardened features provide a blank wall upon which James' energetic projections of first love can fall. Finally, Wright manages to stitch together wildly inventive, yet otherwise incongruous scenes that wouldn’t otherwise have any business appearing in the same movie. Typically, directors pick the soundtrack to suit what is happening on screen, but here, Wright’s obsessive hero seems to be create the soundtrack of his own life, using music to decide his fate.

Overall, Baby Driver is one of the most utterly original films in years. An awe-inspiring piece of filmmaking from Edgar Wright that plays out as a musical through the lens of an action thriller. Sweet, funny and utterly original.

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