MEDIA: Review of Baby Driver, The best car movie in a while
Vanishing Point, Bullitt, The Italian Job, Mad Max, Smokey & The Bandit and Two Lane Blacktop. I could keep listing these because the 60s and 70s were lousy with awesome car movies. It's an unofficial scientific theory that these movies played a major part in the popularity of car culture in the United States. Although we love it, the "Car Movie" is a very divisive term to the general public. This is because it's so hard to boil down car culture for the mainstream movie goer and so many movies drop the ball. While some movies like Bullitt or The French Connection are considered Hollywood classics, others like 2 Fast 2 Furious are excruciating to watch. To a car enthusiast though, the Car Movie is the holy grail of movies, We will sit through the most grueling trash ever put on silver nitrite just to catch a glimpse of our favorite car on the big screen. But, every now and then we will get a movie that is instantly a classic, a movie that nails every aspect of what a movie should be and doesn't have a weak link. Usually when a car movie does this, it's an adaptation of a cult classic like Gone in 60 Seconds, but when all the planets align we get a fresh movie. That is exactly what Baby Driver is.
Baby Driver, at face value, could be considered yet another heist movie, but that's like saying Star Wars is just another B-class Sci-Fi movie. I would go as far as to say Baby Driver is our, The Millennial Generation's Bullitt, this is our Car Movie masterpiece. It wasn't designed to be producer's attempt to pander to the petrolhead demographic (The Fast and The Furious, 2001) rather is a story of a reluctant criminal who got caught up in a life of crime. This is a movie that both car enthusiasts and movie buffs can enjoy.
Allow me to go further into detail about the story, it is about a young man, who goes by the handle of Baby. He made some mistakes as a kid and got wrapped up in a life of crime. He now owes money to the kingpin of a gang of bank robbers and is working off his debt by being their getaway driver. Upon meeting the love of his life, Baby wants to get out of his life of crime and this is where the movie gets interesting. No spoilers here though, you have to see the movie for details.
The director, Edgar Wright, really pulls this movie together. He relies on physical special effects rather than CGI, this gives the movie a more gritty, real feeling and I can't express how awesome this looks in a movie, CGI feels like a cop out and doesn't age well. The most striking aspect of the direction though is the use of extremely long camera shots. While Wright used them to draw you into the world of the movie, they also serve to show off the expert level driving and choreography used in the chase scenes. Those chase scenes feel almost like some of the earlier Ken Block Gymkhana videos. The long camera take also made it's way into more than just action scenes, as Wright used them to explore Baby's life outside of work in conjunction with the soundtrack.
The soundtrack itself is enough to go see the movie for, even if you don't like heist movies or cars. These are extremely strong words but this soundtrack is better than Guardians of the Galaxy. Classic rock and hip hop is used to set the tone of the movie perfectly. For those privy to the greatest classic rock yodeling song of all time, Hocus Pocus by Focus, you will be treated to that being played during one particular scene. The music isn't just used for filling the void, Wright uses the soundtrack as a diegetic sound, which can't be understated for it's creativity.
Diegetic sound is a sound that occurs in the scene rather than something added for effect. In example, the cantina band in Star Wars Episode IV is diegetic, whereas the music playing during the escape from the Death Star is non-diegetic.
The music in Baby Driver is entirely diegetic and used to connect the audience member to the protagonist who himself uses music to relieve his tinnitus inflicted during a childhood car accident. When music or other loud noises aren't happening, the constant ringing of tinnitus can be heard. As someone with tinnitus, I can confirm that this is an extremely accurate portrayal of the experience.
Rarely does a car movie balance everything so well. The original Mad Max, in all of it's glory, had a lack of relief from its foreboding feeling of doom. Two Lane Blacktop, had a weak sense of direction which would lose non-petrolhead's interest. Both of those movies are among the best car movies of all time but they have trouble appealing to the standard audience member. Baby Driver however, is a thrilling movie full of car chases and subtle car culture references with just enough comic relief to keep the audience member's attention.
Add that this movie makes cars look so undeniably cool that you can't help but look up a red hawkeye WRX or a Lincoln Continental Mark VI after seeing it, and you have one of the all time greatest car movies. This isn't a superhero movie veiled as a car movie, or a monetized series with some token cars in it, this is a purebred old-school car movie. It's just like the original version of The Italian Job. Car culture needed a movie just like this. If you're a petrolhead, do yourself a favor and go see this movie right now.
Needless to say, this movie is 10/10.