Hollywood, to me, has been in a bit of a lull lately. It seems like every week there’s a new superhero movie coming out (that’s somehow worse than the last one) or a remake of a classic movie that has no business being remade. But there are a few writers and directors that act as a shining light in the darkness that is the film industry. Edgar Wright is one of them.
I fell in love with his work when I first saw Shaun of the Dead, which I still consider to be one of the greatest films of all time. From there I gathered, consumed, and digested anything of his I could get my hands on – Spaced (still the greatest TV show of all time), Hot Fuzz, World’s End, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I do, of course, attribute some/a lot of his greatness to his partner in crime Simon Pegg, who is also a fantastic writer, but you can certainly have one without the other. That’s why I was so excited for Baby Driver.
It’s been four long years since Wright graced us with his presence behind the camera, and I was excited to see not only how he’d grown as a filmmaker, but as an individual. It’s one of the best things you can do with an artist, go back in time and become familiar with their work and see how they progressed over their long career. When looking at Spaced and then going through the Cornetto Trilogy, you can definitely see it with Wright. The themes he tackles become more mature. He begins to use his tools in different ways. And his view on the world changes.
Going into Baby Driver, I was expecting some of the same techniques that you find in his other films – extreme closeups, quick pans, visual humor – and sure, some of that was present in Baby Driver, but not nearly to the extent that it is in say, Shaun of the Dead. He’s definitely matured since the beginning of his career, and you can see it in the way he uses the camera. The pans are much more smooth. The cuts are less erratic. He doesn’t overuse certain elements as much as he used to. It seems much more fluid. It seems much more… grown up.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the classic Wright elements are still there. In a movie that’s about speed, you can’t not have quick cuts and fast pans, but his use of these techniques is much more polished, much more subdued, and used more sparingly. This made them much more impactful.
Then, of course, there’s his use of color. Wright has always found interesting, inventive ways to use color palates in his films. Shaun of the Dead uses darker colors and whites in order to make the blood pop. Hot fuzz uses more dark, shaded colors to mirror the muted lifestyle of the English countryside.
Baby Driver‘s palate was breathtaking. Reds, pinks, blues, and… (I’m no artist and I’m also a man, so excuse my lack of color names and knowledge) a collection of sandy colors filled every single frame of the film. Certain shots had certain colors to mirror the action taking place. In the warehouse where Baby and his cohort gather to work out a job, you see dark greens, grays, and blacks, used to symbolize the dark corners of society that the characters are working in. Or it could be used to symbolize the area of Baby’s mind that he has to enter in order to justify being a part of this world.
I’m probably looking for symbolism in things that don’t symbolize anything, but still. Wright’s use of color is a fantastic change of pace from other films that don’t put that same kind of effort into their set design.
The plot, on the other hand, really wasn’t all that spectacular. I mean, it was. It was a great story, but it wasn’t anything that’s never been done before. Boy meets girl, boy and girl want to be together but there’s something threatening their relationship, boy does what he has to do to be with the girl. It’s a pretty simple concept.
But that’s okay. The story was made interesting by the other interesting aspects of the film. The characters, especially. First, you have Baby, the main character. His love for music is something we can all relate to. Then there’s Debbie, Baby’s love interest. We don’t know much about her, but that’s okay. We’re not supposed to. All we need to know is that the person that we’ve grown emotionally attached to over the course of the film (Baby) is in love with her. We, the audience, want what’s best for him, and that’s Debora.
And those are just the main characters. There’s also Buddy (played by John Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Bats (Jamie Foxx). In an interview, Edgar Wright expressed his feeling that the character’s personalities kind of flip-flop over the course of the film. Which I agree with quite a bit. Baby becomes much less innocent as the movie progresses. Buddy always had the crazy switch inside him, it just took something to set it off. And Doc (Kevin Spacey) became almost lovable towards the end.
It’s been a while since I’ve actually cared about characters in a film, mostly because characters now are just archetypes. They’re what we expect, what we want. But the characters in Baby Driver were interesting. They had qualities that made them relatable. And they were fresh. All things that make for a great cast.
And then, of course, there’s the music. Let me ask you something. Have you ever been in the car driving, a song comes on, and you start to drive a little faster? Your hands grip the wheel a little bit more, and you roll down the windows as you crank up the volume just a couple more notches? That’s Baby Driver. Have you ever done something, anything, to a beat? Performed an action so perfectly timed to the rhythm of music that you feel like a badass? That’s Baby Driver. Not just one part of it. Not just a couple of scenes. That’s all 120 minutes of it.
There are certain scenes that are so perfectly timed and so beautifully edited that you can’t help but feel cool just by watching it. Snares sync up with gunshots. Crashes sync up with car crashes. Even the windshield wipers sync up with sweeping guitar or vocal parts. It’s a symphony. It just feels right. There are certain things that can’t, nay, shouldn’t be put into words. They should be experienced. The way that Baby Driver uses music is one of those things.
I want to see Baby Driver again. I need to. I want to sit down and watch it over and over again so I can pick out all those little things that Edgar Wright does in his movies. You know what I’m talking about. The little things he puts in that make no sense until 45 minutes later and you say ‘Ha! I remember that!’ I want to experience the audio/visual synchronization again. But really, I just want to see that sexy little red Impreza zip around the streets of Atlanta again. If you haven’t seen Baby Driver yet, do yourself a favor and go. Go now. But ask them to turn the volume up a little bit. This is a movie that should be experienced loud. And I mean loud.
Reed’s Review Corner
10 ‘B-A-B-Y Baby?’s out of 10
Beautiful set design and use of color.
Edgar Wright’s style has matured like a fine wine.
Acting was superb.
The music wraps its arms around the visuals and doesn’t let go.
Gimme a bit. I’ll think of something.