Wonder how his engines feel? Pretty good!
Which came first, the soundtrack or the script? The idea for Baby Driver had been knocking around in Edgar Wright’s head since the mid-90s and its first manifestation was a music video. Not hard to guess, then …..
And it’s clear that the film was constructed around its soundtrack. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s so good, you just can’t wait for the next track, as well as the prospect of the action happening in time to the beat – bank robbers sashaying along the street for one, gun fire for another. It really is that stylized, especially when it comes to that opening sequence, a scorching car chase that reeks of rubber. After an opening like that, the rest of Edgar Wright’s film has its work cut out living up to it.
It very nearly gets there, although there are times when the combined absence of cars and music acts as a cinematic puncture: it’s what happens when you build a movie around a soundtrack. Thankfully, it doesn’t last for long because one or the other – or both – comes to the rescue. The story revolves around getaway driver, Baby (the pouting Ansel Elgort), who’s unusually young for his profession, but also unusually brilliant, fearless and fast. He’s also heavily in hoc to local crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey): when he says “jump!” …… It means Baby is on permanent call as the driver for Doc’s various gangs as they carry out a series of heists, shooting innocent members of the public along the way without a second thought. But one of their jobs is doomed from the very start and Doc’s crime empire is starting to crumble.
The connection between Baby and the music? The first and most obvious one comes courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel and is the closing track of the film. But there’s more. Baby suffers from tinnitus, blocking it out with constant music from his lucky iPods. His tastes are wide ranging, some of them making it onto the soundtrack, from T-Rex to Queen, Focus to The Commodores. And Wright teases his audience with them: watch the scene were Baby’s listening to a song and its lyrics are the graffiti on some nearby trees. It is, incidentally, not the director’s only wink at the audience. Wait till you discover Baby’s real name …..
Baby Driver is what it is – a stylish and stylised action thriller with lots of car chases, bullets, a great soundtrack and a handy cast. Jamie Foxx returns to form after the risible Sleepless as the most cold-blooded member of the gang: known as Bats, he has the tattoos to go with the name and shoots anybody for the sheer hell of it – even just for some gum. Jon Hamm is gloriously and greasily seedy as one of the other gang members, Buddy. They all have ironic names, something of an homage to Damon Runyon’s colourful aliases. As criminal mastermind Doc, Kevin Spacey is playing the kind of role he can do in his sleep – but nobody can play an icy villain quite like Spacey.
Wright’s reputation and the film’s trailer have stoked the fires of excitement for this one, so does it live up to all the fuss? Yes, but only just. There are times when it sags, usually when Baby’s personal life comes to the fore, but it manages to make up for them when the next action sequence comes along. And the final one is definitely worth waiting for, a worthy bookend to the opening one. The whole thing is fast and it’s fun – but your pulse doesn’t quite race at Baby’s speed.
Baby Driver roars into cinemas on Wednesday, 28th June.