As the second of their 2017 Fall Films Lineup, A&O Films will screen Baby Driver, a 2017 summer blockbuster that goes above and beyond your average action flick. The film’s soundtrack and unique directorial style set it apart from any other film you may have seen this summer.
Baby Driver follows the story of a criminal getaway driver named Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) who is unstoppable behind the wheel. Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the main conflict of the film revolves around Baby’s struggle to escape the criminal world he’s been part of “ever since he could see over the dashboard.” Along the way, he falls in love with a diner waitress named Debora (played by Lily James), who shares his love for music and his dreams of a better life. The most notable aspect of Baby’s character is the way he obsessively listens to music to combat tinnitus from a childhood car accident. Because of this, the soundtrack plays a key role in the film’s storytelling.
The music in the film acts not as an external complement, but rather as a tangible, living personality. The movie flows as if the music is behind the wheel, driving the action forward – instead of the other way around. “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl transforms a bland coffee run into a lively dance, while Queen’s “Brighton Rock” elevates the anger and intensity of a final showdown. Before even putting pen to paper, writer and director Edgar Wright had every song for the soundtrack selected. This was an unusual move, considering the studio had to secure the rights to the music before filming, instead of putting together the soundtrack afterwards – and the results are spectacular.
Like all of Wright’s works, this is a film that rewards multiple viewings, as there are always new hidden elements to discover: You may not notice somebody stacking money to the beat of the music upon first viewing, or song lyrics written in graffiti on a wall as a character walks past. Throughout the film, there is not a single gunshot, siren or tire screech that does not sync up in time with the music blasting through Baby’s ears. The attention to detail in this film is astounding. One might even say concerning. Neurotic. With each viewing, you will notice new ways in which the soundtrack synthesizes with the action into one cohesive spectacle. This director’s choice adds up to a thoroughly entertaining experience and makes this one of the most stylish films in recent history.
However, with Baby Driver, fans of Wright’s past films will notice the distinct shift in direction from his other projects. Wright is known for his signature action-comedies (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), jam-packed with rapid-fire laughs. However, Baby Driver’s comedy, while present, takes a backseat to its action-driven storyline. Because of this, some Wright-heads consider Baby Driver to be one of Wright’s weaker films. And yet, it still stands out as one of the strongest films of this year, hailed by critics and audiences alike.
As far as performances, Ansel Elgort delivers the most during the action sequences. He even went so far as to learn some of his own stunts for the film, giving each chase a fresh breath of authenticity. Wright also relies heavily on practical effects, resulting in some truly dazzling action sequences. Right from the opening heist, you will watch open-mouthed as a red Subaru pulls two 180s in a narrow alley, or tricks the police into running into their own spike strips. It’s easy to see the influence of Wright’s consultations with George Miller – the mastermind behind 2015 smash hit Mad Max: Fury Road.
When he’s not driving, Elgort remains just a pretty face. The romance scenes in the film are nice, but still lacking – not taking time to develop a truly believable bond between Baby and Debora. Lily James is downright charming; she just isn’t given much to do other than fall head-over-heels for Baby. The true standout characters of the film are the intimidating and erratic Bats (played by Jamie Foxx) and the collected but dangerous Buddy (played by Jon Hamm), each serving as members of Baby’s heist gang. All characters struggle to escape the hand of the sly, Kevin Spacey-type mastermind Doc (played by Kevin Spacey).
Baby Driver adds up to a slick, refreshing action film that is well-worth multiple viewings. The music, the editing and the cinematography are all airtight and expertly crafted. So buckle up, relax and get ready to leave the theater blasting the soundtrack for weeks on end.
Catch Baby Driver as part of A&O Films’ Fall Films Lineup this weekend,in the McCormick Auditorium. Screenings are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Oct. 20 and 21, with free admission.