Reboots, sequels, prequels, franchises, remakes. These five terms have come to dominate and loiter around the film experience of late. Whether it’s exploring the high seas with yet another failed ‘Pirates of The Caribbean film’, or watching Tom Cruise and his bouncy hair run around some exotic land in a failed and unnecessary franchise reboot, there seems to be no end in sight. As evidenced by last week’s trailer release for the upcoming ‘Jumanji’ reboot that no one asked for. Most of these films have created an atmosphere of repetition, sluggishness and stifling boredom, because for every thrilling ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’, we are then exposed to yet another moronic Transformers film that again, very few asked for.
On the other side of the coin, there are those films that look superb in their darker subject matter, such as the trailer for the new Katherine Bigelow film ‘Detroit’ that I saw for the first time yesterday afternoon, or the soon to be released Christopher Nolan film ‘Dunkirk’, that I am incredibly excited for. However, there does I feel, need to be a line drawn in the sand between good entertainment that has the confidence to stand on its own two legs, and something lighter in tone, but still intelligent.
The film that may come to mind upon reading that summation may perhaps be the new ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. The first Marvel/Sony production that finally allows the fan-favourite web slinger to share the screen with other Avengers. However, unless you are already invested in comic books or in the ongoing behemoth of Marvel films, I dare say it’s appeal is lost on you. Particularly when you realise the numbers, Homecoming is the third reboot in just over ten years, the sixth time we are seeing this character and the third actor to play him yet again in high school. Personally, I was quite happy with Garfield.
‘Baby Driver’ then, is the answer to all your cinema woes, to your need for something new, something refreshingly daring and ultimately pure adrenaline filled fun. A film that doesn’t feel a need to make a reference every 5 seconds and where the fate of the entire world doesn’t hang in the balance.
‘Baby Driver’ has been in development for over a decade, nestled safely in the mind of the film writer, director and creator Edgar Wright, this film marks his debut in America. Wright has already contributed to cinema history with several absolute cult British classics such as ‘Shawn of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘World’s End’, and Baby Driver proves he can be a success abroad.
‘Baby Driver’ is the story of a young man, Baby (Ansel Elgort), a driver who is working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey) who assembles groups to rob banks. When Baby was a child he was involved in a car accident and as a result, suffers from tinnitus meaning ‘He has a hum in the drum’, and therefore plays music from his iPod to drown it out. This is the source of the magic for the film, because rather than simply playing a soundtrack over the film, or having a character play his own music and incorporate it into the film, to the extent that say ‘Gaurdians of Galaxy’ might. In Baby Driver, it is the film that is orchestrated by the music. Meaning when any character moves it is in rhythm to the track Baby is listening to at the time. So, for example, when a shotgun is fired, or the boot of a car is shut, or a gun is loaded, it’s done to the beat of the music. Baby also lives through his music, so the songs indicate to us his mood, his feelings and his perception of the supporting characters. Thus, creating a totally satisfying sensory experience, all that’s missing is the smell of burning tyres as Baby drifts around a corner. Wright has really created something special, by carefully and intelligently crafting every single scene, the film serves in its entirety as a truly engaging and thrilling experience. With a clear and almost perfect ability to engage with an exact level of attention to detail, from the big chase scenes to the smaller and more intimate moments. It almost baffles the mind how specific Wright’s mind must work to produce such exact and close attention to detail.
The cast is superb, with a mixture of upcoming big names such as Jon Bernthal and Lily James, to more established actors such as Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey, there is a great deal of talent in this film. Regardless of their roles and screen time, almost every character is given a back story and more importantly a character arc, an essential element that many big blockbuster films fail to engage with, to their own cost. By developing each character, it enables the audience to connect, and so, when something happens to the character we, in turn, are focused, engaged and feel something for them. This may sound obvious, but it astounds me how many blockbuster films fail to engage on this basic construct of script writing, opting instead for grander actions shots, or appalling levels of sexism, or simply fail to create any sense of empathy. Meaning the film lacks the depth required to make a series of explosions engaging after the first 5 minutes where objects randomly explode for no visible reason. Wright has demonstrated that one can achieve both engaging fun action and fantastic characters with equal success.
Edgar Wright has done something here that screams confidence in his own ability to write and direct. He has explored a safe concept, a heist film, but he has done so in his own unique and experimental approach, the result? A breath of fresh air and energy that the film industry needed, an industry seemingly unable to move forward at times, stuck in its own preputial nostalgia. ‘Baby Driver’ hits all the corrects notes, and nothing feels overly long, out of the place or filler. There has been a trend for some time now, to continually reboot films, or create self-contained stories that are weighed down with constant references to its own source material, the cult classics or some larger universe the film is part of. Whereas once this would have been a fun game to play in say a Marvel, DC or Star Wars film, it’s quickly becoming rather irksome owing to these genres over-saturating the market. Granted ‘Baby Driver’ also have references to other films, but those references are brief and explained at one point or another, too much hilarity for the audience, allowing Wright to really make this into his own vehicle.
Baby Driver is a self-contained story, and one I hope never sees the money, sorry ‘need’, to make a sequel. Because as a contained story unconnected to any larger end of the world globe-trotting franchises, your connection to the characters is heightened. We simply do not know the fate of any of these characters because this is the first and hopefully only time we will ever meet them, so when tensions rise, you really feel it and feel empathy for the characters.
OVERALL ***** Utterly superb entertainment and one of the most refreshingly original films I have seen in years. I hope I never see these characters do anything ever again, and I will love Edgar Wright forever for it. It takes great skill and confidence, I would imagine, to walk away from a success and start something new, but Wright has surely proven to himself his ability to deliver exceptional stand-alone films.
RECOMMENDATION – I know most people will say go and see this in the cinema, the picture will never be the same at home on your TV. But I must say go and see this film in the cinema for the soundtrack, it’s honestly worth the almost extortionate amount you pay for films these days. Now if you need me I’ll be lost in the soundtrack.