Baby Driver feels like an “eff you” movie.
It’s been four years since we’ve had an Edgar Wright-directed film, The World’s End. Obviously most people know Wright was supposed to direct Ant-Man, but creative differences between Marvel and Wright let to Wright leaving that project and, with it, a lot of time was wasted. Baby Driver is a very different kind of Wright project. It’s got an attitude that his previous films don’t have. Baby Driver forgoes the almost loosey-goosey tone of his earlier work and replaces that with a focused, stylized crime drama that has a chip on its shoulder.
This is where I declare Baby Driver to be Wright’s best movie. But with Wright’s movies, it gets tricky to make such a declaration. His past films have such a rabid following – and this one is so different – I could see a situation where his hardcore fans look at Baby Driver as not exactly what they were expecting. But, personally, I kind of like this version of Wright, one with a proverbial chip on his shoulder – this version of Wright, that in reality has nothing to prove by this point in his career, but feels the need to go ahead prove a point anyway. Baby Driver is a total “eff you” movie.
There’s something cool about a person who’s described as “the best driver.” Most of us drive, so we know what that’s like, so we all kind of like to imagine that we are the best at it. We are not, but someone has to be. In Baby Driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best driver. He’s so good that local crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), forces Baby to be the driver on all of his important heists. (Baby doesn’t really like this gig, but Baby had gotten into some trouble with Doc in the past and now he has to repay Doc, or else.)
Baby kind of freaks out his ever-revolving group of heist-mates (which includes Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Jon Bernthal) because he rarely speaks and is always listening to music. Baby listens to music because he has tinnitus – which causes a constant ringing in his ears and he needs the music to drown that out.
(I have tinnitus and, yes, it can be annoying. And, yes, I do listen to a lot of music to drown out the ringing. At night, I am unable to sleep unless there’s some kind of noise. While I watched Baby Driver, there were moments I couldn’t differentiate the film’s interpretation of what Baby hears with the ringing I hear. My point of bringing this all up is: if you want to assume I’m the best driver and want to offer me a job on your next heist, I’d at least listen consider the offer.)
But Baby has plans. He’s been putting money away and he and a local diner waitress, Debora (Lily James), have hit it off and once Baby fulfills his debt, he’s going to live a normal life. The problem is, Doc isn’t going to just let the best driver he’s ever had walk away that easily.
And Baby Driver has one of the best uses of popular music intertwined into a story. Obviously there are great films that have done this before, but the beats of Baby Driver are completely in sync with the beats of the music. Baby will plan his escape based on musical cues – to the point he won’t drive until the song is at just the right part. During a gunfight, the shots fired match the beats of the music perfectly. It’s like a ballet, only with car chases and shootouts.
Again, Baby Driver is not your typical Edgar Wright film – but, boy, is it a great time. It’s a cool heist movie, with cool car chases, with cool music – all orchestrated by a director who I can’t help but think feels a little wronged. Remember the last time you felt wronged? How did you react? Of course there’s the old saying that living well is the best revenge. Also, making the coolest movie of the summer is pretty good, too.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.