Monday, July 3, 2017

Baby Driver: This Movie Is So F@#&ING Cool

In order to correctly and safely be able to call a director one of the best we've ever had, there's a certain amount of films they have to direct so we know the first few weren't a fluke. Case in point, I love a director by the name of Martin McDonaugh. However, he's only directed two films: In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. These are brilliant, wonderful films, however, he's got a third one coming out this year that I will see based on the merit of his previous work, but I cannot yet call him one of the greatest directors of my lifetime... yet. Five films. If someone can direct five great films... especially in a row... then, for me, they've proven they are capable of handling any directing/writing task set in front of them. Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed), Steven Spielberg (Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained), hell even Christopher Nolan has joined the ranks with (Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception). Now... with his fifth movie, Baby Driver, one of my favorite directors of all time, I can finally say is one of the greatest directors of my generation... is Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The World's End, Baby Driver).

Wright broke out onto the scene hard when he and longtime friend and writing partner Simon Pegg wrote and produced Shaun of the Dead. This is where we were given our first glimpse at Wright's unique voice and directing style. He only honed his skills and craft further and better with each film he released (though I will always maintain that Shaun of the Dead is his best film). Baby Driver is his coolest and most badass movie to date. What appears on the surface to be just a Drive update to the untrained eye, is actually one of the best movies of the year, and certainly the most original. For those unfamiliar with Wright as a director and his voice, may not be going into the film with the right expectations (and that's probably a good thing!). I guarantee you there are many people taking their kids or teenagers to see this movie to watch a pretty boy do pretty boy stuff in a car and try to act cool, or as they are certain to call it: Twilight on Wheels. What they're going to be treated to, however, is a movie that's heavy in entertainment and violent action and stylized, choreographed dance. Then, there's the added bonus of Wright's sharp and cutting dialogue that's definitely too smart for most American audiences.

Baby Driver begins in the middle of a heist. The bad guys go into the bank, and out in the car is Baby (Ansel Elgort), ear buds in his ears listening to (and singing along with) music that is timed to the heist and getaway perfectly. He's crafted his own life-soundtrack that just so happens to (luckily) be the soundtrack to our movie experience as well. The robbers jump in the car and the next five minutes that ensue is a car chase unlike one you've ever seen before... it's like Drive on crack. It's perfectly choreographed, set to each note of the song Baby is listening to, and it's absolutely bananas fun. Finally, we meet the mastermind behind the heist, Doc (Kevin Spacey). We learn that Baby is driving the getaway cars in these heists as a way to pay off a debt to Doc. One final job left, and he's free to go. In the midst of all of this (and taking care of his kind, deaf foster father) Baby has fallen for waitress Debora (Lily James) who only wants to take off down route 66 with music blasting in the car and no set destination in sight. Baby is all set to join her, but... as you could probably guess... things don't work out as smoothly as planned. There's a ragtag group of hardened criminals (including Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm) who are in dire need of Baby's services and will do anything to pull him back in.

Take away the fact that this movie is a heist movie and a car chase movie and a suspenseful action flick (and pretty much all moviegoers love these)... the movie is smart and funny and cool as hell. It's shot like a music video... or hell, even a musical. The music in the movie is just as big a character as the actors are. Baby, who deals with Tinnitus due to a car accident when he was younger, uses the music to drown out a constant ringing in his ears. But the music is all set to the scene, to the sequence, to the action. Whatever situation Baby gets himself into (whether it's driving the getaway car from the police, or talking to a pretty girl at a diner) he's got several old iPods with perfect soundtracks for the occasion. The film is not only clever in its use of music, but in its car chases, characters, and dialogue. If you've enjoyed even one of Wright's earlier films, you'll thoroughly enjoy Baby Driver. One of the best things I can say about Edgar Wright as a director is that his films are so smart, you wind up catching little things you hadn't before with each watch. I've seen Hot Fuzz over twenty times, but each time I watch it I catch something new. The same goes with his entire body of work and I guarantee it happens with Baby Driver. Even as I'm writing this, I'm remembering so much going on in the movie... it's so fast and clever... I know I missed a lot and I'm dying to see it again.

This is the one movie over summer that I'm hoping will put up crazy numbers at the box office because the statement this movie makes (money-wise) will have an effect on Hollywood. First, it will establish Wright as a credible director here in America and hopefully companies will keep giving him money to make amazing movies. Second... this is one of the ONLY original movies out in theaters right now. Everything else out is either a sequel or a reboot or a comic book/novel adaptation. This is a completely original piece of work and if it makes that $$$, then it will show those fat cat Hollywood big wigs that the general public is fine taking a risk with their cash to see something they aren't already familiar with. And for a budding screenwriter like myself, that's only good news. It's even better because it's not exactly an A-list cast. Yes, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm are all familiar faces, but they alone don't automatically put asses in seats. I would even go so far as to say with Elgort's track record of John Green book adaptations and Divergent films... he's the reason some people might be apprehensive of seeing the film. However, everything in the movie works. Elgort is better than expected (he's tough, he's exuberant, and he's not just a pretty face). James is quirky and fun and not in the manic pixie dream girl way. Space, Foxx and Hamm are having a great time... especially Foxx who doesn't go for the easy comedic laugh, but is actually a pretty frightening dude.

There is something in the movie for everyone. And once you've actually entered the theater and started the film, you're not going to be able to take your eyes off the screen. While the movie could have gone a bit further with character development, it doesn't matter because everything else surrounding the movie is so fucking cool, you're not sitting there going... man, I wish I knew Kevin Spacey's back story.  Everything works in this movie and it should be at the top of your list of what to see next. I can 100% guarantee that this movie rests comfortably on my end of the year Best Movies of 2017 list.


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