A red subaru pulls up to a city bank. A thumb starts a song on an ipod (not an iphone or an ipod touch mind you, we’re talking 5th generation, with a tiny screen and a click wheel — oh yeah!). “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion fades on over the monotone ringing that carries over from the opening logos. Three people leave the car and walk into the bank with masks on. The driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) stays. For about 3 minutes, we see no action, just baby jamming out in the car. He mimes singing with a water bottle as a mic and makes record scratching sounds with windsheld wipers. When the song hits its break, we see the robbers coming back to the car. Baby shifts gears; he revs the engine; as the song builds, we wait for him to start the car, practically leaping with urgency.
The vehicle shoots…backwards? Baby spins it around though, and shoots through a car chase like you have never seen. With the entire sequence choreographed beat for beat to the music, this is not a conventional chase where the cops give pursuit until the escapees escape. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the robbers will get away; rather, the thrill of this sequence is that of seeing a martial arts master deftly dispatch a group of clueless opponents. This is almost more of a dance number than a car chase: a piston pumping disco, a ballet with a gearshift.
Edgar Wright is a director who has been around since the early 2000s and has attracted a devoted following. I am not one of those people, and this was the first Edgar Wright movie I’ve seen, but I was very impressed by his unique way of looking at a crime movie. Though it is jarringly violent and sometimes extremely vulgar, it posseses a joyous quality that yearns, like the protaganist, to be free of all that.
As aforementioned, Baby Driver is a psudeo-musical, with nearly every second of the film accompanied by a very intentionally curated soundtrack. Though similar in concept to Guardians of the Galaxy, Wright uses the soundtrack not as an ironic or grounding force for the film, but as a base for every scene. I’m told that the script was written with the songs already in mind and that they were played during shooting, which explains the excellent flow of the editing. Though the plot may be branded sparse by some, it strings its events together just well enough to give us things like a gunfight scene set entirely to the song “Tequila”.
Seeing this movie definitely delivers a distinct feeling of exhilaration; the excellent sound design and quick-cut editing make you feel like you are actually in whatever danger the characters are, but its all thrills because of the constant music. This movie is loud and in your face, sometimes (especially in the finale) alarming. It makes me wonder if the aura of this movie might be akin to what theater audiences in France felt 121 years ago when they leapt out of their seats in fear of the train rushing toward them. I can’t know for for sure what they felt, but I know this much: it’s a good era to be a fan of movies.