Plot: What’s it about?
I don’t know the exact number of new releases in any given year, but I’m willing to bet that there are hundreds. Granted, not all see a wide release and of those, only a few are both critically and commercially acclaimed. It’s a diamond in the rough that manages to do both and do it with some A-List actors. Baby Driver is that diamond. Legions of fans might recognize Edgar Wright from his collaborations with Simon Pegg. He directed a trio of films: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End and also did a little film called Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I enjoyed them all. For reasons I won’t disclose here, I don’t go to the movies anymore. I realize the irony is thick as hell, but I don’t care. I’ve become a spoiled, introverted movie-goer and my theater is also my living room. And I’m ok with that. Let’s do this.
Baby Driver features an ensemble cast, but this is really Ansel Elgort’s film. We meet the title character, Baby (Elgort), who’s the designated driver for an Atlanta crime syndicate – Doc (Kevin Spacey). Doc’s teams vary from job to job, but we learn there’s usually one paranoid hothead who gets edgy. Why? Baby never talks and has earbuds and iPod in tow at all times. They don’t know if he’s mute or just slow, but we know the truth. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was younger and thus he now suffers from tinnitus, something the perpetual music helps to drown out. He’s got “one last job” to finally be debt-free of Doc and, wouldn’t you know it, that might be when things start to go awry.
Music is essential to the film and it ties it together. The music Baby hears is what we hear. It focuses his impulses and simultaneously takes him out of his world and, for lack of a better term, grounds him. Let’s face it, the film feels like a two-hour long music video and, of course, it works. There are other stars in the film, Jamie Foxx plays a psycho with a quick temper called “Bats” and Jon Hamm looks more like a character out of Sons of Anarchy, but the attention invariably focuses back on Elgort’s character. This one has it all. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Video: How’s it look?
The 2.39:1 AVC HD encode is spot on fantastic. We get plenty of scenic views of Atlanta, from the robust skyline down to a chase through the Peachtree Center in downtown. Colors pop, detail is tack sharp and when you can see depth and dimension from smoke on the squealing tires – you know you’ve got a winner. There seems to be a nice, film-like quality that a lot of films don’t have. Contrast is rock solid, black levels are as well and I’d wager to say that this is one of the better-looking (if not the best) that I’ve seen in quite some time.
Audio: How’s it sound?
It might seem a bit unassuming, but the DTS HD Master Audio sound mix in Baby Driver is nearly as integral to the plot as is the acting and writing. Wright uses filmmaking techniques to put us inside Baby’s head. Music plays in just about every scene, and the sound effects are used act as an additional layer of percussion. A stack of money is slammed down – boom – it happens on the song’s downbeat. Gunshots, screeching tires and brakes applied are all similarly timed to the music in a way that’s most effective. Consider the opening sequence in which we see and hear Baby as he listens to his iPod. Look closely and the music is on the walls in graffiti. Look closer and we see that he’s singing the song word for word as it plays over the speakers. This is genius. Suffice it to say that this is one of the most aerobic tracks I’ve heard in a long time. And it’s worth every penny. Of note, I have to give a shout out to the filmmakers for including one of Queen’s better songs – Brighton Rock. It’s my namesake, so admittedly I was pumped to hear it play such a prominent role in the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Director Commentary – The first of two commentary tracks features director and writer Edgar Wright as he discusses the influence for the film, as well as some of the more technical-minded things like the stunts, casting and choreography. It’s an interesting track, but it’s also just Wright. The more intriguing one was…
- Audio Commentary – Edgar Wright and Director of Photography Bill Pope collaborate on this second track and it’s full of a lot more life and energy (having a second person will do that). The two discuss the obvious: the way the movie was shot. I was excited to see the movie again and this really helped tie a lot of things together. Fans will really enjoy this one.
- Extended and Deleted Scenes – 20 minutes of extended scenes and a few moments that were dropped from the final cut.
- First Heist
- Kitchen Dance
- Gas Station
- Cops & Robbers
- Foot Chase
- Killer Track
- Behind Bars
- Behind the Scenes – Half a dozen featurettes that shed some light on the pre and post production of the film.
- That’s My Baby: Edgar Wright – Follow Edgar Wright’s vision of Baby Driver from its inception two decades ago, to its ultimate realization on the big screen.
- Mozart in a Go-Kart: Ansel Drives – Ride shotgun with star Ansel Elgort as he works with the talented stunt drivers to become the ultimate getaway driver.
- I Need a Killer Track: The Music – Explore how the film’s phenomenal soundtrack dictated both the writing process and all aspects of production on Baby Driver.
- Meet Your New Crew: Doc’s Gang – Led by powerhouse Kevin Spacey, the cast assembled to form Doc’s gang is perfectly constructed with stars like Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm as well as up and coming talent like Eiza González and Jon Bernthal. Go behind the scenes to see this talented group at work as they bring these characters to life.
- Find Something Funky on There: The Choreography – With every frame of Baby Driver set to a specific beat it took precise choreography by the cast, crew and editors to create a cinematic dance like nothing that’s been done before. Hear from the choreographer and filmmakers on this groundbreaking process.
- Devil Behind the Wheel: The Car Chases – From closing down Atlanta’s interstates to creating eye-popping maneuvers for a variety of vehicles, witness the amazing craftsmanship and sheer determination that made the film’s incredible car chases possible.
- Selected Scene Animatics – Check out over 35 minutes of the numerous pre-vis animatics developed by Edgar Wright as part of his meticulous preparation.
- First Heist Original
- First Heist Pre-Shoot
- Killer Track Original
- Killer Track Pre-Shoot
- Masked Raiders
- Farmer’s Market Live Action
- Farmer’s Market Animated
- Foot Chase
- Rehersals & Pre-Production
- Ansel Elgort Audition – See firsthand the audition that proved without a doubt that Ansel Elgort was the perfect choice for Baby.
- Annotated Coffee Run Rehersal – Day one of production involved one of the film’s most elaborately choreographed sequences where every movement is carefully crafted. Check out the preliminary rehearsal and see the behind the scenes movement in concert with Ansel Elgort’s on camera choreography.
- Hair, Make Up & Costume Tests – In this stylized montage, witness the transformation of the actors through costume, hair and make-up tests.
- Mint Royale Music Video – This music video directed by Edgar years ago for the band Mint Royale showcases some early inspiration for Baby Driver.
- Complete Storyboard Gallery – See the elaborate storyboards developed for the film in this gallery featuring storyboards for the entire film.
- Promos and More – A gallery of trailers as well as short clips from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Internatoinal Trailer
- Tekillya Trailer
- Chase Me – Danger Mouse Feat. Run the Jewels & Big Boi
- Mike Relm Baby Driver Remix
- Mozart in a Go-Kart
- Chase Me
- Head West
- Finest Thugs
- OK Go
- Innocent Male
- Three Things
- Stories Extended
The Bottom Line
There’s nothing to dislike about Baby Driver. It’s one of those movies like Back to the Future that truly has something for everyone. Yes, it’s R-rated, but…well…I don’t really have a “but.” It’s R-rated. Every actor delivers. Foxx and Hamm (ironic that these two supporting players both have four letter names with duplicate consonants, or maybe that’s the way my mind works) add to the comic relief. Kevin Spacey is in rare form and Ansel Elgort shows he can play with the big boys. It’s got it all. A kick ass soundtrack along with a superb visual presentation make my job easy – it’s an easy recommendation.