Edgar Wright’s latest film is everything and more you could have hoped for from the man known for his exciting filmmaking techniques and originality. This brilliantly singular vision could have come from no one else and is executed to perfection to provide us with one of the most original, unique and sure-to-be iconic films of recent times.
Following the titular Baby, the film chronicles his involvement in a criminal system as a (phenomenally brilliant) getaway driver for various robberies, but his relationship with his boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), soon reveals the complexities behind the seemingly more moral Baby’s involvement in this criminal underworld. However, as he strikes up a romance with a local waitress (Lily James) and believes his time as a criminal should be over, he is thrust into more danger than before as he attempts to juggle the various forces that appear to work against him, and the characters who threaten both him and those he loves.
This is a film that has all the markings to become an instant classic. It’s effortlessly cool style, story, action and dialogue harken back to those pop-culture infused (and pop culture infusing) films from the likes of Tarantino – but at the same time this is something entirely different. There are lines you just know will enter the zeitgeist and be quoted back and forth forever more, and I guarantee you’ll see a lot of last minute ‘Baby’ costumes come this Halloween, as his sunglasses and earphones look become universally recognisable.
Its supreme uniqueness is most obvious in its stunning action sequences and spectacular set pieces. This is driving like you’ve never seen before – fast, thrilling and brilliantly inventive, making the car chases incredibly enthralling for more than just their speed and stakes. The fantastic camera use (what else would you expect from Wright) is of course on display here, and throughout, whether it’s the fast whips and cuts or marvelously long, flowing takes. But the main thing that makes this film so special is the phenomenally creative use of music. The songs chosen are expertly weaved into the scenes – they are not merely played over the top, but an integral part of what is going on. Every gunshot, door closure and movement is in perfect time to the beat and melody crafting something that is unbelievably cool. The music is a character itself within the story (and a big part of Baby’s character and plot – he has tinnitus that causes a relentless ringing in his ears, so he constantly plays his music to drown it out) and its use will have you marveling with your mouth in either a wide grin or your jaw on the floor. It is almost as close as you can get to a musical without being an actual musical. It is not a gimmick; it is phenomenal.
Music also plays a key part in the development of the relationships between characters whether they are introducing each other to new songs, Baby making remixes, or the sharing of headphones which becomes a physical connection that produces more intimate moments as the wires themselves force people into close quarters.
There are great characters at play here, each with their own defining characteristcs, and none just to pad out the number of people. They are, for the most part, given varying levels of complexity, albeit some carry more mystery. Admittedly, some are weaker than others, in particular Debra (Baby’s love interest), who is not thinly drawn, but perhaps not given as much as some of the others. There may have been a risk that certain characters could teeter over the edge into become caricatures, but Wright and his actors always ensure that they stay on the right side of that line allowing these characters to be another check on the list of hallmarks of cult films. Each actor embodies their character perfectly, they meld into their roles, relishing each line of dialogue and perfectly infusing it with character. John Hamm and Kevin Spacey are perhaps the standouts, but this is a very strong ensemble. Certain characters’ relationships provide an emotional thread throughout the film too, leading to the odd quiet moment that creates a successful tonal variation. Even at the odd moment where choices may seem out of character, their motivations are given explanations (although one in particular may be a little dubious), ostensibly preventing plot holes.
It is full of Wright’s signature wit that ensures many comedic moments both on top of, and within, the breathtaking action. The dialogue is snappy and filled with the humour, but the film never gets lost in it, it is pacy and the plot is always propelled forward, ensuring there isn’t a stall as it gets too involved in a bit – a common pitfall too many comedies seem to fall down nowadays. The plot is unpredictable and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It never runs out of energy and manages to deliver a fantastically satisfying ending, never losing its path. It is also complete with brilliant attention to detail and is sure to be bursting with Easter Eggs (yet another check off for the cult film list), some you may catch, others you won’t spot until your umpteenth viewing.
This is a film you’ll walk out of sure that you will revisit (you may even want to immediately). It is impossible to categorise as it throws humour, crime, music, drama and breathtaking action at you, but ties it all up into an immensely enjoyable and stylish package. The only thing that could really risk taking you out of the film is you marveling at its brilliant ideas. It is complex and laced with questions of morality, but is really inspiring filmmaking and such a creative use of music. It’s a ride you won’t want to end.
Update: I’ve now seen it a second time and it more than holds up. Plus, as expected, there are plenty of little details and hidden Easter eggs that went unnoticed the first time, and I’m sure there are still more to be revealed in viewings to come.