Written and Directed by Edgar Wright
Music by Steven Price
Cinematography by Bill Pope
Film Editing by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss
Casting by Francine Maisler
Random Cast Member to single out: Venancio David….Flame Artist
Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Exterior scenes filmed on location in Dunwoody, Georgia, USA
Audiences love the surge of adrenaline from the Fast and Furious films, want to emulate Mad Max moves, and — if you go back awhile — what is considered the car chase of all time: The French Connection. It’s obvious by the tires squealing in the parking lot, unable to handle the turns really, and the elderly people in their giant gas-hogs chugging along oblivious to the vehicles fishtailing around them, offering helpful suggestions via hand gestures.
None of those car chases can hold a carburettor to Baby Driver. Forget green-screen and impossible stunts. Welcome to the real thing. Ansel Elgort may not be driving most of the time but between him and actual human stunt drivers they are doing 100% of the driving. And It. Is. Heart-stopping. You may realise you are digging your fingernails into the armrests, ladies. Men, you will realise you have been holding your breath through the entire chase scene.
(One question: when you successfully pull away from a crime and no one knows it’s you…why burn rubber and go 80 mph in city traffic. Weave in and out of cars going the opposite direction and basically paint a “This is Us. The Bank Robbers.” on the roof of the car? You’re golden. Change clothes, have a plane ticket in your hand, put the money in a wheelie suitcase, come out of a hotel, and take the bus to the airport. Put a bandage over one eye or a fake port wine stain, then people will remember that and nothing else because they will be afraid to stare and–)
I have put way too much thought into this. Back to Baby Driver!
Writer and director Edgar Wright was sick of those green-screen, CGI, trailer-rigged car chases. He wanted to go back a bit, back to before SFX became the crutch the film industry leaned on to make crazier and crazier stunt-packed movies. The Fast and the Furious franchise prides itself on actually doing the majority of their stunts, but the directors and stunt coordinators will admit to using special effects to complete some scenes and rigging ramps and such things to make stunts work as desired. Even the highly destructive (170 cars) chase scene on the Vegas strip in Jason Bourne required CG to erase safety equipment.
That’s not what Wright wanted. He wanted full-on, heartstopping, pedal through the floor driving. He wanted every second of it real…and that’s what he got. In spades.
No film can survive on drifts and spins and pushing a compact car over 100 mph. Edgar Wright has given audiences a fascinating character in Baby, B-a-b-y. His constant use of ear buds interests some and infuriates others, but we are given a chance to hear the tinitis he is drowning in and drowning out with constant music and it is painful. One could see how it could become maddening, especially considering it is a reminder of the worst moment of his life. Some think his isolation makes him a liability.
How can a kid do the job? How can someone who seems “simple” be trusted to be the driver? Oh, right. There’s the other part of the title: Baby is a getaway drive, the best there is. That’s according to Doc (Kevin Spacey), the boss who selects the jobs, the crews, and always Baby as Driver, even over the objections of others. Perhaps they have a point; Baby does stand like robot, saying nothing if he can help it. He hides inside his music and behind his sunglasses: Baby Enigma. And Elgort plays him to perfection, holding his own within a cast of Big Names.
But, Baby does not have to spend the film Sphinx-like. The arrival of another character on the scene seems to touch the loneliness and isolation that have darkened his life more than the sunglasses he habitually wears. Into his life walks the playful and endearing waitress Debora (Lily James, Downton Abbey), enough to make him come to life for the first time. If it isn’t love at first sight, it’s certainly a magnetic pull that isn’t going to let go. Isn’t that almost the same thing?
Various not-good guys pop up and cause varying amounts of mayhem: Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Lanny Joon, Eiza González. It’s impossible to tell where some of the criminals are going to fall on the scale of evil. Who just wants the money? Who’s willing to kill if it comes down to that? Is there anyone on the crew has no problem with gunning down everyone they see? Can Baby keep from getting blood on his hands.
Baby Driver is exciting. It is harrowing. It is loving. Elgort’s Baby is an entertaining puzzle walking, a riddle that becomes impossible not to cheer for as we get to know him better. Excellent casting in that part and the rest of the diverse bad guys and bystanders. A round of applause for Edgar Wright for following his dream and making a movie only spoilsports wouldn’t enjoy. No surprise that his next movie is with DreamWorks animation; the right people have been watching, but it’s a big secret so that’s just between you and me.