Baby Driver (Wright, 2017)

🎶 And I was like baby, baby, baby ooooooh / Like baby, baby, baby nooooooo / Like baby, baby, baby ooooooh / I thought you’d always be mine (mine)… 🎶

OK, sorry ‘bout that. When you have a film so ingrained in musical lore and a protagonist with the moniker “Baby,” you tend to start sifting through the obvious culprits. Just as Debora says, almost every song is about a baby of some sort, and I dig the juxtaposition of the endless Babies in musical history with the endless well that is the film Baby’s playlist. Edgar Wright’s innate savviness is on full display here, especially during the first half: the diegetic sound squarely in Baby’s ears being grafted into the minutiae of the real world, the songs seamlessly orchestrating the sheer joie de vivre of adrenaline rushes and high octane pedal-to-the-metalling. A ton of work was put into ensuring that every beat was hit with pinpoint precision, and damn, the energy of the endeavour engulfs you right from the get-go. It’s so relatable, too, for people who wish they could turn their mundane life into an exuberant musical, with song guiding along action without ever entirely stopping it.

It would have been mind-blowing if Wright could have turned the whole film into a wordless jukebox musical, choreographed by the regular heartbeat of daily life and nothing more. A movie that’s entirely built upon the premise of an iPod stuck on shuffle. Sadly, Baby Driver is not that movie, but it’s still one heck of a thrill ride. The car chases, the sudden shocks to the system, the visceral danger that Baby is constantly in, dealing with bloodthirsty criminals like Jamie Foxx’s Bats: Wright’s penchant for high-stakes exhilaration never falters, just as it never faltered when he made his Cornetto Trilogy. Now, I wouldn’t say Baby Driver is exactly betterthan the said trilogy—the flash offensive is so strong here that the heart of the story gets a little lost in the process. The character work, too, is a bit sketchy; for instance, it was hard to believe that fresh-faced Debora would turn on a dime and become the Bonnie to Baby’s Clyde when he both stands her up and doesn’t tell her shit before the shit actually hits the fan. One moment she’s doe-eyed and innocent; in the next, she ends up helping him kill a man. A bit of help on that front would have worked wonders.

Still, it’s hard to be too picky when I look at the crop of films that’s been released up until this point. Only a handful have proven themselves, including this one. But what makes Baby Driver such a winning number is how risky the venture was, and how rewarding it felt when most of those risks paid off. Even if, at the end of the day, it’s not as perfect as it wants to be, I think its panache and vigour are sorely needed, and one cannot dismiss 2017 in film without at least acknowledging that Edgar Wright has given us a firecracker of fun amidst a dull landscape of the same old, same old.

P.S. Didn’t comment about the cast, but this is a great ensemble. Was apprehensive about Ansel Elgort at first, but he’s so committed to Wright’s scheme that he’s a joy to watch. Lily James is (as always) beautiful and electric, and does a lot with an otherwise ordinary character. And of the criminals, Jamie Foxx is legitimately nightmarish—maybe one of the darkest villains I’ve seen in recent memory.