Edgar Wright takes a detour with “Baby Driver”

You know an Edgar Wright film when you see one. From his signature directorial style to his pop culture heavy writing, he does something truly unique. It’s not a stretch to say that there’s no one else in the industry quite like him. This week, Wright unleashes Baby Driver, which is in equal measure both very much like what’s come before for him and very much something new. Wright is embracing genre in a way that he has never really done before. I saw the film last week and liked it quite a bit, though it’s a flick that I think is a bit overpraised, if we’re being honest. More below.

The movie is an action packed one, chock full of music. Young getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) sets everything in his life to music, even the heists he pulls off for Doc (Kevin Spacey). In debt to the crime boss, he uses his driving talents to help thieves like Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), and Griff (Jon Bernthal) make off with tons of cash. Baby, however, dreams of escaping the life, especially once he meets and falls for waitress Debora (Lily James). Working with Bats (Jamie Foxx) on the infamous “one last job” before retirement, Baby runs into trouble and ends up on the lamb. Cue the escape music. Wright writes and directs here, with the cast also including Flea, Sky Ferreira, CJ Jones, Lanny Joon, Hudson Meek, Lance Palmer, and more. Bill Pope is behind the camera handling the cinematography, while the score is by Steven Price.

Personally, I think this film falls just shy of greatness. The car chases and getaway sequences are kinetic and old school, while the musical choreography is incredibly clever. It just has too many earnest moments that lean into the genre cliches. Wright normally winks and nods at genre while subverting it. Here, he does something closer to homaging it. That’s just my take on it, and I know plenty will disagree. Remember, this is still a very good movie. It simply can’t quite reach the heights of some of his best work, to me at least. If you like Wright though, you’ll definitely appreciate what he’s doing here.

Here is how I would rank Wright’s filmography so far:

5. Hot Fuzz
4. The World’s End
3. Baby Driver
2. Shaun of the Dead
1. Scott Pilgrin vs The World

Awards wise, I doubt Baby Driver contends seriously for anything. It just doesn’t seem like that sort of film to me. If it does, it’ll be in technical categories, or maybe, just maybe, in Original Screenplay for Wright. Best Picture or Best Director (for Wright) seem like long shots, while the acting categories won’t be happening. Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing are where the powers that be should place their bets. You could make a case in Film Editing, Sound Editing, and/or Sound Mixing that the movie deserves to be in play. The odds favor a shut out though. That’s just how things roll sometimes.

Starting today, audiences can see Wright try something different with Baby Driver. It’s as indie an action film as one can probably make within the studio system. The movie offers up a welcome alternative to the Fast and the Furious franchise when it comes to car based action. These aren’t CGI flying behemoths that defy physics. Not even close. There’s a tactile realness to the automobiles that go a long way. Whatever slight genre shortcomings I found, this is still well worth seeing. The way he uses music alone is worth the price of admission. If you usually dig on Wright, you’ll almost assuredly love what he’s chosen to experiment with here. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Baby Driver, in theaters everywhere right now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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