Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm
Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Genre: Action, Crime, Music
MPAA Rating: R (for violence and language throughout)
Release Date: June 28, 2017
Antiheroes in a story (whether it be literature, film, or some other medium) bring a certain level of complexity and intrigue that can't be found in stories with traditional protagonists. Antiheroes have been used extensively over several decades in film, with some notable examples including Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976), Michael Corleone in the Godfather trilogy, and Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. These "heroes" are individuals who don't possess the typical qualities of normal protagonists--meaning they usually lack morality and ideals. This throws viewers through a loop due to the fact that they are still forced to sympathize and "root" for them, even though many things the antihero does in the film is contrary to the viewer's belief system and/or moral code.
Edgar Wright's new crime action film, Baby Driver, uses an antihero and utilizes its form and qualities to its potential. In the film, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young getaway driver for robberies. Suffering from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) from a childhood accident, Baby copes with his condition by playing music from his iPod almost constantly on a daily basis, including on the robbery jobs. Viewers soon discover that, while he's extremely talented as a getaway driver, he seeks to leave and live a normal, quiet life. However, after a series of events leads him with little choice than to continue on with a new heist, he has to find a way to escape while simultaneously protecting those he loves.
Baby Driver's opening scene sets the stage for the rest of the film, with gripping car chases that, unlike many films like it, are (at least for the most part) easy to follow. The chases don't land on the scale of the Fast and Furious franchise, but are even more entertaining due to the ability to actually follow the action and not be lost in a special effects extravaganza. The chases are further boosted by the unique and visually/aurorally-pleasing idea of having sounds linked up to Baby's music. Car trunk slams, door slams, gear shifts, and other elements of the car chases are synchronized with Baby's music, making the chases more exciting and thrilling than they would be otherwise.
The technical achievements are where Baby Driver thrives the most. The direction, cinematography, and editing is crisp and smooth--just as smooth as Baby's driving, which was no doubt the goal of Wright. The camera seems to move in rhythm, like its own vehicle, with little handheld work being used. The film possesses visual poetry for cars, with motifs for circles and wheels and even graphic matches (one transitions from a spinning washing machine to a car wheel). The film also possesses an atmospheric quality that further immerses viewers in the story, particularly the night scenes which contain warm and vibrant lighting.
Baby Driver certainly celebrates cars and their aesthetic beauty, but it also celebrates music as a method of escaping the world and coping with personal issues. This comes to light through Baby's character, who has a troubled past and a physical handicap and thus uses the gift of music to live life comfortably and happily. It is a means of escape for him as well as a means to endure his chronic condition. Director Edgar Wright also wrote the screenplay for the film, which should be praised for its fleshed out, three-dimensional characters as well as its tight pacing, which keeps viewers engaged and interested right up to the finale. The film, in further advancing its antihero approach, also homages the antiheroes Bonnie and Clyde several points in the film, with Baby serving as Clyde and his love interest Debora (Lily James) serving as Bonnie.
Baby Driver's razor sharp direction, editing, and beautiful cinematography compliment its thrilling action sequences and tightly paced, well-rounded screenplay to make for a fun and surprisingly deep action crime film.