I’m not sure what was wrong the first time I went to see Baby Driver. It was June 28, the day it was released, and I remember leaving the cinema with the panging hollowness of disappointment asserting itself in my belly. I felt a bit let down, for some reason.
It might have been the peanut M&Ms, or lack thereof. I always eat peanut M&Ms when I go to see a film, but I forgot them that time, and I think that put me in a bad mood. Come to think of it, that might have been the real reason for the panging hollowness in my belly.
Anyway, the second time I went to see Baby Driver, I remembered my peanut M&Ms. And I left wondering how I could have been so wrong first time round.
Baby Driver is the sort of film that just attracts film review clichés: it’s “fast-paced”, “thrill-a-minute”. Those quotes are great for sticking on a poster, but they do a pretty serious disservice to what might be the most original action film since Fury Road.
Original how? Well, what sets Baby Driver apart is its extraordinary use of soundtrack. Its soundtrack isn’t, like in most other movies, simply a complementary feature. It is, bluntly, the very groundwork for the film. Let me explain.
You know when you’re driving, and a certain bit in a certain song makes you want to push the pedal to the floor? Like that moment just over three minutes into The Chain, for example. Or that moment just over three minutes into Dance Yrself Clean. Or the whole of I Believe in a Thing Called Love.
There’s a wee spit of adrenaline injected into your blood stream at those moments, where you just appreciate how the music matches up with what you’re doing. It’s those spits of adrenaline that Baby Driver operates with.
When Edgar Wright, the film’s writer and director, listens to music, he imagines movie scenes in his head. Chase scenes, simple coffee-buying scenes. Scenes where each bar, intonation and syncopated hiccup of the music matches up with the movements of the characters and the rhythm of the action.
While this is fairly easy to picture in your head, it would be spectacularly difficult to film. It would take meticulous planning, artisanal camerawork, and the editing skills of a god to get everything to match up so precisely. Yet that’s exactly what Wright has done here. From a purely technical point of view, it is astonishing. There’s one sequence in particular, set to the song Hocus Pocus by Focus, which is as close to a religious experience as I’ve come for a long time.
And that would be enough, honestly. I’d happily sit and watch a two-hour film where that was the only real draw. But, naturally enough from the guy who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, there’s also the impeccable script. Kevin Spacey, in particular, speaks his lines as if he’s downing a huge drink in one gulp. It’s so smooth, it’s almost hypnotic.
The result is a movie that’s simply as cool as all hell. It’s so cool, it makes a kid who struggles under the frankly hideous name ‘Ansel Elgort’, and who looks unflatteringly similar to Magnus Carlsen when he’s angry, seem cool. It’s a movie with pure, bouyant, unironic charisma.
So, do as Wright keeps insisting on his Twitter, and get yourself to a cinema to see Baby Driver large and loud. Lie back and lap it up. And don’t forget the M&Ms.