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Baby Driver (2017)

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Shaun of the Dead (2004) is somehow one of my favourite ever comedies, as well as making it on to my list of favourite ever horror films.  Hot Fuzz (2007) is brilliantly funny too (always thought it would make a great cinema double bill with Bigelow's Point Break, the 1991 thriller from which it took a lot of inspiration), but I don’t remember reacting to The World’s End (2013) in anyway near the same way.  While the first two in Wright’s ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ heavily referenced films I knew very well to comedic effect, I remember thinking that I would find The World’s End funnier when I’m older… so its terrifying to think that soon may be the time to give that another go.  I'm a huge fan of Edgar Wright’s snappy style and cuts, and there’s actually a great analysis of his visual comedy which I recommend checking out here.  After he backed out of doing Marvel's Ant-Man in 2015, the release of Baby Driver crept up on me a bit this year.  Had I known one of the masters of visual comedy was planning on doing what he has described as a musical Gone in 60 Seconds I would have been counting down the days well in advance, but with minimal build up it still managed to leave me totally floored.  Charlotte and I were lucky enough to catch a preview showing at Cineworld on Tuesday night this week with all the other Unlimited Card nerds.  The turnouts at these previews can often be hard to predict, but the film's been receiving ridiculously good reviews over the last few days so it was a pretty full screen.
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Back in 2003, Wright put his long standing concept of a music-obsessed bank robber in to action when he directed Mint Royale's 'Blue Song' music video.  14 years later, and that is the same premise for his feature length movie, Baby Driver.  Ansel Elgort plays Baby, the best getaway driver that criminal kingpin Kevin Spacey can get his hands on.  Struggling with tinnitus Baby constantly has his iPod on full volume to drown out the constant ringing in his head.  The stream of tunes Baby listens to act as the backing soundtrack to the whole film and we're left with a superb cross between Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and 2011's Drive (but, with much more driving!).  I wouldn't want to spoil the film's full setlist as that would ruin much of the film's charming surprises, but when I say you can go from T.Rex to Beck to Incredible Bongo Band you can see that it's an eclectic mix.  Instead of mindless song choices though (*cough* Suicide Squad *cough*), each plays an important part in the story, feels right, and is timed alongside the actions and surroundings of the characters and mise en scène.  You don't have to look to hard to see lyrics of songs in graffiti on the walls as characters strutpast, and gunshots, punches, crashes, bashes and handbrake turns are choreographed to match the beats of the songs.  Its never distracting, and does add to that feel of a music video or musical as if it were an original score.  It's absolute genius to watch it play out, and its often as if every song was written specifically for the movie.  The two seem so entwined that I wasn't sure how well the soundtrack would work outside of the movie theatre.  Well, we had it on earlier and I couldn't have been more wrong - it nearly had me Billy Elliott angry-dancing round the living room.
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I’m ashamed proud to admit that The Fault in Our Stars (2014) made my list of guilty pleasures, and Ansel Elgort’s performance plays a huge role in that.  Thanks Ansel.  He’s ridiculously likeable, charismatic and heart-breaking all in one, and he was the only thing good about that Carrie remake (2013).  My soft spot for Elgort meant I had high hopes for this leading role.  He's been cast in November Criminals, and Billionaire Boys Club later this year – the latter of which also starring Kevin Spacey – so 2017 could be a big year for him.  Baby’s an interesting character that again plays on Elgort likeability factor, and he manages to hold his own among some Hollywood royalty.  That royalty is a terrifying bunch too.  Jon Hamm did a bit of a psychotic Don Draper here in a role that was apparently written specifically for him.  Kevin Spacey has a great sense of intimidating authority, but I really enjoyed Jamie Foxx above anyone else.  He's scary, reckless, clearly tapped and I only wish he was in it more.  Lily James plays Debby, the love interest with enough songs named after her to fill her own playlist.  Other than the obvious draw (Elgort's face), my younger sister's really keen to see this film because she loved James as Cinderella in the 2015 live action adaptation.  Not gonna lie, I didn't go to see that, but she was one of the bigger surprises in Baby Driver so I could be persuaded.  Her role could easily have slipped in to the background behind the bombastic cast, soundtrack and editing.  She was more complex than I expected and a lot of fun, and they both made for a young couple I was desperate to floor it towards the sunset.
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Before there is any chance of that happening, there's a series of breathtaking car chase sequences they must navigate.  Spacey's Doc has a hold over Baby that forces him to be the getaway driver for each of his heists, and he's very good at it.  It looked like Elgort had done a fair bit of the stuntwork himself, but whether that was the case or not, the live action chase sequences are absolutely exhilarating.  Our screening began with a short intro from Edgar Wright who was keen to make it clear how there was no CGI and no green screen used at all.  Instead he stuck to the principals of the great movie car chase sequences, with real life cars, practical affects and excellent stuntwork.  I realised earlier this week how many of my favourite films lean on practical special affects over CGI (even if that was a necessity in movies such as 1982's The Thing, 1979's Alien and 1981's An American Werewolf in London).  It adds a sense of legitimacy and craft to it all, whereas CGI often feels like a cop out.  I'm really glad Wright made that decision as Baby Driver definitely reminded me of the car chases he was inspired by (think 1968's Bullitt, 1971's The French Connection and the Bourne films).  Praise indeed.
I cannot wait to go and watch Baby Driver again, and I really hope an original story with a very original premise gets the audience numbers it deserves.  I'm a sucker for a great action movie, but its so refreshing to see one handle those scenes in such a fun way.  I had such a good time I let it off for an ending that slightly dipped from the high standards it had set itself earlier.  The dreamlike feel to some of the film (in particular the scenes about the budding romance) may not sit well with all, but if you were to sit back and just allow Baby Driver to entertain you, then that is exactly what it will do.  And then some.  I have the biggest grin thinking about it right now.

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