There are few things in life as satisfying as a great movie soundtrack. Well-timed and well-tuned sonic overlays can be the final touch on a masterpiece that puts it over the edge of greatness; in other words, a movie with great music “goes to eleven.”
Baby Driver, directed by Edgar Wright, has more than just a killer soundtrack—it is the soundtrack. The music is not just an added feature to make certain scenes more spectacular, or a nostalgia hit to draw in a certain audience. Rather, the music ofBaby Driver is a constant presence, one that is as integral as the dialogue and visuals. Take the music out of Baby Driver, and you don’t just weaken the film—you bleed it dry.
The source of this sonic lifeblood is Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway driver with tinnitus, who constantly listens to his many iPods to drown out the “hum in the drum.” After becoming indebted to Doc (Kevin Spacey), a criminal kingpin, Baby became Doc’s most valuable resource, since Baby’s driving prowess means that even the most brazen heists can be pulled off without a hitch. However, now Baby is coming close to the end of his debt, and he hopes to get out of the crime game to please Joseph, his former caretaker who is now too old to care for himself.
After finishing his final job for Doc, Baby meets a girl named Debora (Lily James), who is endeared by his quirkiness and love of music. However, his hopes of falling in love and running away are delayed when Doc forces him into another job, this time with a more dangerous crew.
The ensemble of criminals that Baby works with is impressively terrifying. Kevin Spacey records another timeless performance as Doc, Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez play a Bonnie and Clyde duo, and Jamie Foxx’s character, Bats, is frightening enough to soil your pants. Director Wright does a superb job of managing the interaction between the psychotic crewmembers, whose dysfunction serves to threaten Baby more than any car chase ever could.
Speaking of car chases, this movie does not skimp on them one bit. A movie about a getaway driver naturally needs to have car chases, but the chase scenes in Baby Driver revolutionize the concept. Not only are they some of the most impressive car chases ever shot, but they play out to the rhythm of the music, as do the many gunfights in the film. No film that I have ever seen has the kind of rhythm that Baby Driver has.
The rhythm of the film flows through every aspect, from the choreography of shots to the emotional movements from scene to scene. The dialogue plays out like a score, with upbeat comedy contrasting dark melodrama without ever diminishing the entertainment value of a single line. The spectacle of the script is heard through the brilliance of the instruments on which it is played. Foxx and Hamm steal every scene they enter, leading to crackling tension when they share a camera. Elgort and James play out a beautiful romance that provides the audience with a genuine reason to root for Baby every time he’s being chased.
Among the many poetic relationships of the film, Baby and Joseph stand out to me. Joseph is deaf, and he communicates with Baby through sign language. Not only is this the most mainstream use of sign language in a film that I’ve seen, it also demonstrates a tenderness in their relationship that is simply moving to watch, as the man who cannot hear and the boy who always needs to be listening to something still show their love for one another through the one medium they share.
Because of this type of emotional richness, it would be criminal to label Baby Driver as just an action movie. However, the violence and tempo of the film lift it away from the generic conventions of even thrillers, putting Baby Driver into a category of its own. Maybe that is where the film’s brilliance is; its uniqueness and multi-faceted attributes alone are enough to make it whole, a movie that needs no comparisons to give it meaning.
Wagner’s Watchworthiness: 9/10