It was all going so well. Having helmed his ‘Cornetto’ trilogy with friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and having branched out with the superb Scott Pilgrim vs The World, it seemed director Edgar Wright was set to make the step up in blockbuster land with Ant-Man.
Then came the dreaded creative differences; Peyton Reed went on to direct the Marvel film, and Wright was left hanging in the wind – or so you would think.
Instead of joining the Marvel brigade, Wright put into production a film about a getaway driver, leaning heavily on classics like The Getaway and Bullit – and the fruits of Wright’s labours are now in cinemas.
The film tells the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a renowned getaway driver who uses headphones and music to drown out the noise of the car after an accident he had when he was younger.
When he meets Deborah (Lily James), he sees a way out of his life of criminality, but his boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), has other ideas, and soon Baby finds himself caught up in the wrong heist at the wrong time...
Edgar Wright has developed a reputation as a keenly visual director, one whose impressive energy results in cleverly comedic films.
While Baby Driver has its moments of comedy, this is something of a change of pace for Wright, as is the fact that he wrote this alone, having previously co-written with Simon Pegg amongst others.
It’s a change that pays dividends however, as Baby Driver is one of the slickest, coolest and most engaging films of the year so far, a film that doesn’t just resort to the action being the star, with a superb cast delivering wonderfully-judged turns.
Wright’s influences for this particular film lean to the gritty, fast-paced car chase films of the 1970s, and much like those films, Wright realises that there’s no point having slickly-shot car chases if there isn’t the story and characters to back it up.
So while the car chases (and the film itself) are executed with Wright’s signature visual flourishes, the film zinging with an effortlessly cool energy, below the bonnet there is a neat take on the staples of this genre.
While the characters themselves aren’t reinventing the wheel, cut from genre cloth, Wright’s writing brings them to life vividly.
So while Baby is the perennial ‘one-last-job-then-going-straight’ character, we learn how he found himself snared in Doc’s clutches (via Spacey delivering a single monologue, one of many examples of efficient storytelling littered in this film) and about how his hearing impairment came about.
Brought to life exceptionally well by Ansel Elgort, Baby grows up as the film goes on, his moral conscience setting him apart from the world he works in and Elgort is charming while also showing vulnerability.
Lily James’ Debora is also engaging, even if she feels somewhat on the periphery of the story, but her little quirks are executed with aplomb by James, while Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza Gonzalez give their criminals neat little touches and edges that Wright encourages.
The script is rooted in drama, yet Wright’s comedic touch is there at times – there’s the Michael Myers/Mike Myers gag that has been over 25 years in the making, while there are some zinger lines that feel influenced by Tarantino.
However, Wright doesn’t shy away away from the more overtly serious moments, the death of Baby’s mother and Baby’s caring of his foster father (a wonderful CJ Jones) coming to the fore and constantly idling in the background.
The way Wright has edited the film to music makes it feel a little like a musical in places, a clever touch that is both playful and stylised, yet also helps shift the tone away from cliched criminal car caper and offers something frothier, while not undercutting the dramatic aspect of the storytelling.
It’s a sublime, tour-de-force from Wright, who has shifted up a gear here from his previous work. It’s less visually stuffed that his previous films, but it works far better for it, and makes Baby Driver an incredibly satisfying, and unquestionably cool, piece of filmmaking.
VERDICT: Quite possibly Edgar Wright’s best outing as director yet, Baby Driver is a superb and wonderful piece of filmmaking.
Showing he has the scriptwriting ability to match his directing ability, this is a tour-de-force for Wright, backed up by a raft of good performances, most notably from the engaging Ansel Elgort – this film is all kinds of cool brilliance! Essential viewing.
SEE THIS IF YOU LIKED: Hot Fuzz (2007), The Getaway (1972).