Monday, July 03, 2017

Baby Driver: 0 to Wonder under 60 seconds

Under sixty seconds, we know just about everything we need to love Baby Driver

The first seconds of Baby Driver could be the climax of a traditional "caper" movie: Jittery characters in black grip their weapons, tumble out of a red sports car, and scurry across the street through the glass doors of a bank.

But the camera stays behind with the young driver, mute and expressionless between ear buds and dark glasses.  Alone now, he jacks up the music, lip-syncs, dances behind the wheel.  He's having a blast, and so are we, except when he glances through windows at terror in the bank. 

In moments the gang returns, the driver "Baby" hits the road, and we're off with a new song, all of Atlanta's police in hot pursuit. It's a dance for vehicles, even the gun shots synchronizing with the music.  

So we already know "Baby" (Ansel Elgort) sets himself apart from the bad guys; he's an artist behind the wheel, and we're on his side.  We also guess that the movie's style has as much to do with Singing in the Rain as with Ocean's Eleven; and our guess is confirmed after the heist, when "Baby" dances to a different song balancing a tray of coffees around lampposts, pedestrians, cars and workmen.  Even a street musician's saxophone plays in the same key as the song.

Director Edgar Wright and his young star have generated so much goodwill before the titles have finished rolling that we're hooked.  The goodwill extends to two people Baby cares for.  First, there's foster father "Joe" (CJ Jones), wheelchair-bound, who expresses concern for Baby via American Sign Language while Baby waltzes a sandwich to him.  Then there's the singing waitress "Deborah" (Lily James) who just wants to drive west on I-20 without a plan.  I'd have been satisfied if he'd picked her up and driven away right then.

Of course, complications ensue and ensnare: Baby is going to have to fight for his freedom.  The tone darkens considerably when we meet "Bats" (Jamie Foxx),  whose malevolence comes with sympathy - not ours for him, but his for himself, roiling with deep-seated grievances.  While the movie veers sharply towards The Terminator, the music keeps going, and the director plays with the chase theme as a composer varies a tune, e.g., changing instruments, or playing the tune backwards, etc. (I don't want to spoil surprises.)

[Photo:  Director Edgar Wright, left; Wright and Elgort]

Searching the internet for some back up information, I ran across one blogger's analysis of Edgar Wright's first draft of the movie.  Movie scripts are usually one minute per page, but the printed script for Baby Driver was much longer, not because of dialogue, but because of meticulous descriptions to fit action to the soundtrack of Baby's iPod selections.  Check it out:

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