You’ve got to wonder what genre director Edgar Wright will tackle next. He’s done so many of them, and Baby Driver is the next in line. For a movie like this, it is worth it to look at the context of the filmography of the director besides just looking at the film itself. Because Wright’s filmography has given birth to this film.
So, when you think of movies about getaway drivers, what do you think about? What are your expectations? Because one of the joys of watching a Wright movie is that he creates a humorous twist that toys with those expectations. You might think about criminals and bank heists. You might think of violent movies about emotionally closed grown-up men. About psychopaths with guns who take vengeance on each other and car chases and police sirens. Now twist that idea, give it a spin, the way Shaun of the Dead was a twist on the zombie genre and Hot Fuzz was a twist on the buddy cop genre.
And that’s how we get Baby Driver. There is no real need to go deeper into the story because it plays around with familiar tropes what you would expect to be there. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is our getaway driver for a criminal gang, and he is so frickin’ young for this job that it looks ridiculous, but that is kind of the point. It’s why he is named Baby and he is a slightly ridiculous character. This is a Bonnie and Clyde story, or True Romance or Robert de Niro in Heat, reenacted by two teenagers who are nevertheless portrayed by Wright as totally smooth and cool people. Baby dances his way through life, full of movement and energy. His would-be lover Debora (Lily James) has tendencies of manic pixieness but is a totally confident associate.
You might also think about an evil crime boss. Kevin Spacey fulfils that role with great flamboyance but he is also not exactly who we expect him to be. He gets an arc. He is humanized in the script. Many more examples abound of Wright setting up expectations for us and then subverting them. You might think that one of the criminals is the real sociopath here, but then it turns out to be someone else again. None of the characters in the film are very deep, but they are defined by how they defy the tropes of their roles. I did found it hard to personify myself with Baby and his romance did not feel very realistic, but these are artifacts of Wright’s approach of subverting expectations.
That is also how the film stayed fresh, exciting, surprising and funny. On top of that, the fast editing where the actions and sounds happen to the tune of songs in the background is just masterful. There is literally a rhythm to this story and a good pacing that is kept up throughout the whole running time. The story stays sharp and solid all the way to the end (although the final scenes are quite a cheesy wrap-up). What a masterclass of filmmaking.
Edgar Wright shows a real glee in vibrant, exuberant filmmaking that just jumps from of the screen.