Remember that famous scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service that has Colin Firth turning around at a bunch of thugs, and saying, “Manners maketh man”? Well, director Edgar Wright is more or less doing the same. Only he’s looking at his audience and saying, “Music maketh movie.” The film’s use of music, the way the characters discuss it, the way scenes are envisioned to go with it… Somewhere as I’m writing this review, Tarantino is, no doubt, shedding tears of joy. Take the opening scene, for instance, in which the camera fixates on the baby-faced… Baby (Ansel Elgort), who’s tapping the steering and mouthing the words to ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, as his companions are taking care of the simple task of bank robbery. Any other film may have been tempted to take you into the bank, the scene of action, but Baby Driver prefers to show you the antics of Baby, who’s silently performing a mini rock concert inside his vehicle which he will shortly go on a rampage with through the city with the almost chaotic precision of a jazz concert. In another scene, as a gunfight unfolds, the music treats each gun shot as a beat, and creates an experience that’s raw, violent, and at the same time, artistic.
Baby Driver makes you feel like you’ve wasted your life worrying about your tragedies, when you could instead have put on shades, plugged in earphones, and made the most of the moment. However strenuous the circumstance, this is what the unusually quiet Baby does. It’s shortly explained, of course, that he’s suffering from tinnitus (which causes the affected to hear a persistent ringing sound), and hence, needs to listen to music. This makes him live life in the same way some of us have forever wished for: with background music. And in the process, makes a film that’s unabashedly entertaining, that drips swag in every scene. Despite the dozens of Fast and Furious films that have come our way and the general overexposure to car chases, Edgar Wright, with some beautifully edited sequences, manages to keep your mouth agape in amazement. I swear I haven’t been this astonished in a long time. The jaw-dropping sequences that show Baby effortlessly drifting his car during rush hour, make you reexamine how you use handbrakes.
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey
Director: Edgar Wright
Storyline: A baby-faced getaway driver has to find a way to move on from his job
It isn’t just action, of course. This is the sort of film that you don’t want to be watching while sipping coffee, unless you’re the type to like it on your shirt. There is plenty of ingrown humour. When Doc (Kevin Spacey, who can sleepwalk through these roles) looks at Baby, and proudly says, “That’s my baby”, Bats (Jamie Foxx) dryly responds, “F*** your baby.” In another scene, one of the robbers removes Baby’s shades, annoyed that the latter won’t really interact much. As the robber turns away, Baby calmly picks up another shade from his bag and puts it on, continuing to listen to music. He also has the odd but fascinating habit of recording everyday dialogue and creating mixes out of such lines. During a particularly tense moment, one of his tapes get played, resulting in an all-round hilarious moment.
And amid all this humour, style and swag, is a film that never truly descends into frivolity. Every conceit is explained, is well-thought. The characters are consistent. Baby, for instance, walks as he drives–he swerves away from people at the last possible instant, pays no attention to signals, and his walking is at all times synchronised with the music he’s listening to. And as is the case with any film that is written well, even offhanded, seemingly trivial conversations come back to great effect. Buddy (Jon Ham) and Baby have a conversation about listening to killer tracks and how it enhances driving, when the latter shares that his all-time favourite is Queen’s Brighton Rock. It comes back with payback at the end. Baby Driver brims with a certain disregard to rules, a certain wildness of spirit that it reminds you of why cinema, sometimes, is so beautifully cathartic, escapist. Good luck not walking out of the theatre with your shades on and your foot tapping to a song in your head.
This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.