You’ve just got hand it to Edgar Wright , the quirky, comedic director of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013). The movie’s got huge flaws you’d think would take down a far stronger film. But a combination of editing, synchronized audio and action somehow not only save it, they make it delightful.
It’s quite a feat, considering the parts here. There’s the audio, which comprises the absolute best song compilation of any movie in years. It incorporates an amazing variety of music styles as we move from song to song and scene to scene. And the synchronization of music with action is at once cheesy and artful.
And it’s got Kevin Spacey, who is brilliant here. Watching Spacey count out stacks of bills to a synchronized beat makes you forget all about Frank Underwood.
It also has a knack for making mundane things surprisingly pleasing to watch. Our hero, Baby (Ansel Elgort), makes mix tapes, for instance. He uses an amalgamation of antiquated audio recording technologies — up to and including 80-column cards with a magnetic stripe being used to record and playback audio snippets.
I would not have been surprised to see some old red Dictaphone Memobelts stacked somewhere in Baby’s apartment.
It isn’t boring or wonky. It should be, but it isn’t. Its plot is a serious snoozefest and the character and plot elements are at times as nonsensical as they are unoriginal.
But let’s talk about that story.
It’s all based around Baby, who is a phenomenally skilled young driver that is stuck driving the getaway car for the heists of an evil criminal genius. He tries to break away from all of that, predictably. He falls in love with a Sweet Young Thing, of course. Just as you’d expect, he flirts with freedom but then gets pulled back in for one last job.
Typical. Rote. But: the synchronized music, violence, and car chases are so artfully accomplished they make up for it all.
Even when Baby is out of his car and just walking to get coffee. Even minor sounds and objects in motion are synchronized with the beat of the music Baby listens to via one of his many mood-synchronized Apple iPods.
This synchronization isn’t just a gimmick.
If it were, it wouldn’t work. Rather, it’s a theme and a backing track and a philosophy and a driving element — of the entire film.
The editing (IMDb credits Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss) integrates characters, dialogue and flowing action to elevate it all far above most lavishly overproduced music videos. For details about they edited Baby Driver in real time, check out this piece.
How else to explain how this exceedingly imperfect film is just so good?
You’ll roll your eyes at some of it. I know I did.
But you know what? I didn’t care. You won’t either.
See Baby Driver because it’s a fun film you can tap your toes to while munching popcorn — perfect summer fare.
For aNewDomain, I’m Dennis D. McDonald.
p.s Here’s the trailer. Enjoy!
An earlier version of this movie review ran on Dennis D. McDonalds DDMCD site. Check it out here.