Baby Driver, 2017

© Sony Pictures Releasing

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

– One of the finest surfer dudes to have lived on this blue planet. Fucking miss Bodhi

Brilliant film and all but five years in the cooler don’t let you off that easy; that too if in the end we were made to believe that Baby (Ansel Elgort) got paroled for good behavior. Good behavior? Dude this guy just drove like the devil (“Was He Slow?“) himself and made sure he took care of all serious police codes 10:46; 10:90; 10:64; 10:65; 503; 505A; 480! And had a ball while at it, as director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, 2007) and Second-unit director Darrin Prescott, meticulously arrange some of the best car chases to be captured on film. It also uses as little SFX as possible to make Baby Driver a realistic film, something that can be spoken of in the same sentence as perhaps Bullit, 1968 (with McQueen’s ’68 Mustang Fastback and a black Dodge Charger for the baddies in an extended chase from San Francisco to Brisbane); The French Connection, 1971; Vanishing Point, 1971, where the protagonist delivers a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum while being chased by a  Jaguar E-Type roadster; or The Driver, 1978, where Cowboy (Ryan O’Neal) drives a 1973 Chevrolet C10, pursued by the bad guys in a 1974 Chevrolet Impala; or John Frankenheimer‘s sensational and shot with hyperrealistic aesthetics, Ronin, 1998, without cheating, just like in Baby Driver, by adjusting the frame rate and instead, using  the same camera mounts as those used on Grand Prix and point-of-view shots, with the four BMW 535is and five Peugeot 406s one of each was cut in half and towed by a Mercedes-Benz 500 E while the actors were inside that were being driven at up to 100 mph.

In Baby Driver, the car stunts/chases were first rehearsed at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, filmmakers captured the stunts with specialized pursuit cranes and small cars with an installed camera crane. Film editors Paul Machliss & Evan Schiff used animatics before production had fully started. The use of visual effects was minimum since Wright emphasized that his film be as realistic as it could be. Sound editing supervisor Julian Slater composer Steven Price and Wright conceived the film’s audiovisual repertoire (Baby has tinnitus), modifying and connecting the ringing in the ears to the suspense being created with engine sounds, dialogues with changing nuances. Confronting challenges while shooting a car chase sequence are many and here most are technically sequenced with a set of frequencies designed by the gents named above, working with altered voices, and other sounds to emphasize Baby’s distorted point of view as he waits (as the getaway driver) for the heist to come to an end and for the robbers to get back in the car. Something like Drive, 2011 by Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives, 2013), where he blends tough and tender with uncanny skill. Kevin Spacey and Punisher add to the dark humor and chilling menace the film has to offer in loads and in context. Plus, Driver uses colors to define moral detachment in the case of Baby, and his reliance on music to control emotions and be patient as he waits for his team-mates to return after completing “the job”. It is is driven by strong color cues.

This is a great example of a film where real talent is evident behind the camera from the first shot, and also a place where the fusion of art and entertainment is as seamless and enjoyable as possible and the latter is no mean feat, even with Wright and his team of extremely skilled professionals. Nevertheless, the rapid tonal shifts, Baby’s wardrobe, the multi-flavored dynamics, and the colors (that are symbolic to represent the personas of the main characters) sometimes get in way of the narrative, but not in the way of Baby’s flawless coffee run.

Good behavior?

“Was he slow?”
“No.” Says the Punisher.

Refreshing and massively entertaining, stylish, with extremely well-established characters (except maybe the character of Debora [Lilly James]); Baby Driver is “a car chase opera“, it is world-weary, with existential ennui. While a film based on car chases is a reminder that every scene is a triumph of editing as much as it is stunt work, this one defies all the current trends in mainstream action filmmaking and the filmmakers shoot much of the film in-camera, meaning the shots are not edited into the film narrative after the film has been shot but shoots the driving sequences in strict order, with the rest of the story.

Baby Driver puts you in the passenger seat and drives like its tail is on fire and expects you to keep up; which you would (choosing not to get out of a moving vehicle), but keep up with the crazy-ass driving and some quality lip-syncing to some of the best tracks out there: “O rock of ages, do not crumble, love is breathing still – O lady moon, shine down a little people magic if you will

Fair Use
Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) and Bats (JAMIE FOXX) on the way to the post office job with Buddy (JON HAMM) and Darling (EIZA GONZALEZ) as cops pull up next to them in TriStar Pictures’ BABY DRIVER.

Shine down a little people magic. Oh Lady Moon, why don’t you?
She just did.
Oh, nice.

A must Watch

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