Think of the first time you heard a favorite song. Think of that feeling it invoked, hidden somewhere between your head and your heart, welling up with excitement and overflowing, coating the entire moment you’re in and becoming its skin. Think of that indescribable endorphin rush as your intuition gently screams – this is IT. You know this feeling, right? We’ve all had it – where music breaths itself into your life and speaks words you didn’t even know to say. Well, hold that thought, because that moment is the best way I can describe Edgar Wright’s new film Baby Driver. Not because it spoke to me on some deep, philosophical level but because its language is music – its whole world is life soundtracked. And it is one hell of a song.
To say this is Edgar Wright’s best movie doesn’t quite cut it. First of all, that’s a nearly impossible claim against a nearly perfect library of films. Secondly, this movie doesn’t just stack up against his previous work but is in the running for an all time great, period. Over the years, Wright has been developing not only an impeccable comedic voice but also one of the sharpest eyes for action and editing the world has ever seen. These skills were dauntingly evident in the bombastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and honed in to a marvelous degree on the vastly underrated The World’s End. Here, with Baby Driver, Edgar Wright has firmly established himself as a premier action virtuoso, creating one of the most viscerally exciting movies ever committed to film. I genuinely don’t remember ever leaving the theater so electrified.
Telling the tale of Baby, a getaway driver with unmatched skills and an unhealthy attachment to his iPod, the movie gets a lot of miles out of what might seem like a rather slim story. When we meet Baby, he’s working for a big time crime boss, paying off a debt and working ever closer towards his last score. Along the way, we meet a delightful rogues gallery of hardened criminals, Baby’s family complete with heartrending back story, and, of course, the love of his life that he will do anything to protect. Without spoiling anything more about the story itself, I must say that between the script and some truly fantastic acting all around, you will be wholly invested in the well being of this soft spoken, somewhat silent, southern boy as he navigates his way through the city’s seedy underbelly.
But Baby Driver is no simple crime and car thrill ride. It’s also not a musical, contrary to many hyperbolic early reviews – but, they aren’t entirely wrong either. The story began its life back in 2002 when Wright directed a music video for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song” where we find comedian Noel Fielding as a getaway driver who can’t help but jam out while waiting for his partners in crime. In the way Wright’s constructed his soundtracks over the years, from the infamous zombie bashing Queen scene to the teen angst diary perfection of Scott Pilgrim, it’s obvious to see how the seed of this idea grew within him. But the film is not simply a movie length music video either – it’s somewhere between and beyond all of the above.
You get the sense that Wright has been collecting songs this whole time, piecing together his film not by script but by soundtrack. Every shot dances to every song, creating a rhythm that is both mesmerizing and dumbfounding. From the screech of the tires to the firing of bullets, the entire thing drums along to its own perfectly timed beat. Several times during the film I caught myself bouncing to the tune of a shoot out or a car chase, compelled by the sheer movement of the whole thing. Going back to my original metaphor, Wright does not simply offer songs that work great with a car chase (although there are plenty) but masterfully uses his playlist to enhance and propel the emotional life of the story forward. I can attest, blasting the soundtrack as I drove maybe a little too fast on my way home, that he has successfully created one of more fully realized and effective soundtracks ever.
I know that this will be just another hyperbolic reviews but, please, take heed of the avalanche of them in the coming week. This is surely the movie of the summer and almost definitely one of the greatest this year will be capable of. Just do yourself a favor and get to the theater – put in those headphones and enjoy the ride.