Baby Driver (SXSW Review)

Baby Driver stands out as a truly unique cinematic experience. One that pretty much could only be brought to life by its director, Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World). The gentleman known for films with superb editing with inventive and fluid scene transitions and a liberal use of music appears to have outdone himself with this one. Baby Driver is the kind of film that, when it releases later this year, all your friends will be asking “Oh my goodness! Have you seen it yet?” And you will reply cheerfully “Of course I have! Let’s go see it again!”

Baby Driver is, to put it somewhat too simply, an action-musical about a young man who serves as the getaway driver for a criminal organization and has intentions of escaping that life to enjoy the freedom of the road with his best girl. Joining relative newcomer Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars), who plays the main character, Baby, is a talented group of actors that makes up the gang of bank robbers cycled through to perform jobs. These include Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Eiza González (“From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series”), Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”), Flea (The Big Lebowski) and the leader of the crew, Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects). Additionally, Baby’s love interest, Debora, is played with subtle beautiful brilliance by Lily James (“Downton Abbey”). Like the films he has made before, Edgar Wright has a way of using all these characters as fully realized individuals who add nuance and charm to what easily could have been just a chase-scene-heavy action movie.

This film is super intense. It launches out of the gate with a high-speed, tension-filled bank robbery/car chase that serves to establish Baby as an incredible proficient driver and introduce the audience to the idea that this film is almost entirely set to music, which I will get to down below. Where Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive had a similar opening scene to establish his main character’s car-based abilities with pulse-pounding synth sounds and tense cat-and-mouse moments, Edgar Wright’s idea for this sequence is much more bombastic in both tone and sound. He wants the audience to appreciate Baby’s ability as well as his quiet, but cocky showmanship. Immediately following the opening scene is a multiple-minutes-long single take credits sequence, which should seem just utterly preposterous and showy after having just gotten through a white-knuckle car-chase. But, because of the charm of the main character and the vision of this director, one cannot help but to love every decadent second of it.

While the film has no true antagonist, the series of robberies and increased stakes reveal to the audience that chaos is Baby’s foil. And Jamie Foxx’s character, Bats, is chaos personified. A volatile, brutal gangster, Bats has a penchant for getting his way and not caring who or what is in front of him. His unpredictability finds a way to irk Baby frequently, threatening to upend some already risky pursuits the two are placed together to perform. Baby wants a simple life with a pretty girl and some great music in his ears. His unfortunate position of being indebted to Kevin Spacey’s Doc keeps inviting chaos back into his life and imperiling his plans. As the film nears its climax, all the elements of chaos, pretty girls, simplicity, driving, music, and the pursuit of money are thrown into a blender and set to pulverize. Watching what comes out is a real treat!

Okay, so the film is almost entirely set to music. Like, as in action beats, gun shots, dialog, exposition, scene transitions, characters just walking across the frame are in sync with the soundtrack. It is so ambitious and executed with such precision, that one cannot help but sit in awe while watching. This is a move that has to walk a narrow edge in order to work. If it lilts to one side, the audience could be lost because it could devolve into just being a music video; too much to the other side and one is hearing a bunch of pop songs crammed into a film that doesn’t need them or use them effectively (cough cough Suicide Squad). Edgar Wright’s balance on this remains so perfect throughout the entirety of the film that he may have just created a new genre– A musical with distinct choreography, planning, and set pieces, but not based around singing or dancing. Sure there is a little singing and a little dancing, but these take place in the world of the film, not in that strange “everybody knows the steps” world of movie musicals. This is a difficult technique to describe and truly needs to be experienced, but I can assure you, it totally works and it will bring a smile to your face.

Baby Driver is amazing! Edgar Wright’s already impressive resume adds a new gem. This is a gimmickless, honest, thrilling, mind-blowing action experience that demands multiple viewings to pick out all the little details. This is 2017’s Mad Max Fury Road; a magnificent, music-laden, high-octane action masterpiece, with a heart. It is cruel that audiences have to wait until August to see it. But when it comes out, go see it.

Edgar Wright intros Baby Driver at the Paramount Theater in Austin. SXSW 2017


I like to be challenged to think about things, so I studied Philosophy in college. Now I am paying for it.

1 Response to “Baby Driver (SXSW Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Looking forward to this one especially since you say it’s action packed!