Baby Driver, directed by Edgar Wright (2017).
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a melomaniac getaway driver who suffers from tinnitus. He lives with his deaf foster father Joe (CJ Jones) and meets the girl of his dreams (Lily James), but as much as he wants to turn to an honest life once he has paid off his mentor in crime Doc (Kevin Spacey), his godfather won’t let him make this heist the last one.
Much has been said about Wright’s visual style, and his evolution continues with Baby driver. He had already worked with scenes set to significant music, but his latest movie takes it to a whole new level. From the opening sequence, Baby is established as a character for whom life has a soundtrack, and every moment must be set to the right tune. We all like to walk down the street with our headphones on and pretend we’re in a music video, he just takes that as seriously as it’s humanly possible. And so the whole movie is set to an awesome playlist and carefully choreographed, car chases and gunfights included. We hear what Baby hears at all times, including a faint ringing in the rare moments of silence. Colour is used to cue us into the tint and hue in which Baby sees the world at any given time.
It’s a very fun movie to watch. The car chases are frantic and beautiful, completely immersed in the music. I was worried I was bothering the other moviegoers because I was literally dancing in my seat. It makes me very happy that some young directors are instilling new life in the musical genre (I already wrote about Damien Chazelle): this is no West Side Story but there is no denying it’s a musical, in that music is an integral part of the experience, in a new, exciting way.
It’s not a parody or a pure comedy like the Cornetto Trilogy but it still has some brilliant comedic moments, such as “you’ve got a tattoo that says ‘hat’” and Samm at the post office, but don’t expect to laugh out loud all the time because that’s not the point.
But wait! There’s more.
The change in tone is also essential to making the movie emotionally compelling and stand out from other, less ambitious movies. This is no Ocean’s Eleven or Now you see me, this is much closer to Bonnie and Clyde, a comparison made in the movie. Baby’s story starts out as optimistic and carefree, but it becomes clearer and clearer that the stakes are too high and there’s not going to be an easy way out, or a way out at all. After Darling’s (Eiza González) death, Buddy (Jon Hamm) is out after Baby and he has nothing to lose. In the very climax, he does something unheard of: he doesn’t take away the girl, he takes music away from Baby.
I might be in a not very romantic (or indeed very Romantic) time of my life, but you know what? Sweethearts come and go, but music is forever. It was truly heartbreaking. I have suffered from tinnitus since 2009 and had a very real fear of going deaf, but I still think anyone can relate to Baby: music is really the love of his life and the very worst thing Buddy could take from him. Besides, killing cops is one thing and killing waitresses caught in the crossfire is a very different one, so this climax is great for being both unexpected and in-character.
I was the last person to leave the cinema last night, after the credits finished rolling and the lights came back on. I couldn’t bring myself to stand up and leave just yet. When I finally could, I took my headphones out of my pocket and played Bellbottoms while I took a long walk home along the seafront. Thank you, Mr. Wright.