Fusing dazzling car chase sequences with a brilliant cast and razor-sharp pop-music filled soundtrack, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver sits somewhere between a caper film and a music video. Now while those two things might not usually be synonymous with so-called “deep thoughts”, upon re-watching the film I found myself having some rather profound – and some not so profound – thoughts about the film.
So to celebrate its release on Digital, let me take you through a SPOILER-FILLED – I repeat: SPOILER-FILLED – recap off all the deep, and maybe not so deep, thoughts I had while watching Baby Driver. To play along, go watch Baby Driver right here, right now.
First Thoughts – They Should Have Called This Fast And Fabulous
Everybody in this film so far is real pretty. Which, OK, is not exactly a surprise with a cast that boasts the likes of Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Sky Ferreira and, yes, everyone’s favourite madman president Kevin Spacey. Then, though, our titular hero Baby (Ansel Elgort) has his car flying around the streets of Atlanta and I don’t have time to think about how good looking anyone is, I’m too busy thinking about how good looking this car chase is. The colours, the camera moves and most importantly the driving, is dazzling but still visceral and real.
Edgar Wright Must Be A Massive Music Nerd
Baby is a speed freak joyrider with a talent for outrunning the cops and has permanent tinnitus after being in a car accident as a child – that also killed both his parents – which he drowns out with music from a never-ending procession of secondhand iPods. Hence the pounding, in-world soundtrack courtesy of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms accompanying the scene above. This track apparently inspired the whole movie, and it’s easy to hear why. It’s also typical of the rest of the soundtrack which is littered with underappreciated gems and almost forgotten classics.
Wright continues to flex his uber chic music chops in the scene immediately following the car chase, the director not only bringing his trademark visual flair to the mundane task of getting coffee, but also showcasing his novel new approach to the film’s sound design – which saw him building entire scenes around the soundtrack supplied via’s Baby’s ever-present iPods. In fact, we hear the entire film from Baby’s perspective. And to think, the concept for this entire movie began with a Noel Fielding-starring music Wright directed in the early 2000s.
Baby’s Got A Taste For Vehicular Violence
So fast forwarding through the details for a moment, after Baby returns with the coffees we find out that he doesn’t drive willingly, but has been forced into a life of crime as a getaway driver by the ambiguously sinister armed robbery mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey)… even if he does seem to enjoy it, just a little bit.
Baby has one more job until he and Doc are square, and it’s during this scene that I had my first proper deep thought: Baby is mostly a man of peace save for when it comes to vehicular violence. We see it manifest for the first time in the scene where he knocks a trolley into a guard with the truck he’s driving. Now, the deep thoughts start taking a turn for the darker.
Jamie Foxx Plays An Amazing Maniac
Not to discount the heroes in the film, but the villains really steal the show here, with Bats (played by Jamie Foxx) proving to be one of the most charismatic and enigmatic characters. Foxx is on fire in the role, dripping in menace and bravado and delivering some of the best lines of the picture including his put down to Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), “You rob to support a drug habit, I do drugs to support a robbery habit.” So damn good.
Baby Keeps Reliving His Mother’s Death
Ok so I know this sounds like some textbook Freudian mumbo-jumbo but hear me out… literally.
Baby’s death-defying driving can be seen as an attempt to deal with his mother’s death by attempting to control the vehicular violence that killed her. He even soundtracks his exploits, which not only silences the ringing we come to associate with the crash but also brings to mind his mother who gave him his first iPod and was a musician herself.
Now if you think that is heavy wait until I unpack how this obsession with his mother’s death re-positions his romance with love interest Deborah (Lily James).
Deborah Is A Surrogate Mother For Baby
Please bear with me and let’s see how far the rabbit hole goes. But first a bit of a backtrack. Baby meets Deborah at the beginning of the film and they soon bond over a shared love of music and the road.
Deborah describes her – and soon Baby’s – fantasy here with the lines; “I wanna just head west on 20, in a car I can’t afford with a plan I don’t have. Just me, my music and the road”. Now, this might be nitpicking, but that sounds a lot like the conditions of Baby’s accident, albeit a happier version. In fact, Wright actually gives us this idealised version of the scene later in the film when Baby wakes up in a car with Deborah on the run and Baby’s mother’s cover of ‘Easy’ is playing on the radio.
Deborah Is A Musical Dream Girl
While on the topic of Deborah, not only does Lily James do a great job of spraying charm off the screen like a fire hose, she knows her music. I mean come on, the two songs she recommends to Baby are ‘B-A-B-Y’ by Carla Thomas – which I had never heard before but is now on high rotation in my headphones – and ‘Debra’ by Beck, which is just hands down one of the sexiest songs of all time.
Even When He’s Frighteningly Threatening, Jon Hamm Is Still Sexy
Speaking of all the people I have crushes on in this film, while there are a lot of beautiful people to choose from, Jan Hamm’s Buddy – a drug and sex-fueled stick-up man who might be a disgraced former banker – takes the cake. Hamm is clearly enjoying himself, getting to tap into the darker side of his persona. Hell, I can even see Buddy as a model of how Don Draper might’ve turned out if Mad Men kept going. He somehow manages to fuse friendly charm, manic rage and relentless resolve into a character that oozes dirty sex appeal even when threatening Baby and Deborah. The Barry White soundtrack might have something to do with that though.
Bud As A Surrogate Father Figure
Speaking of Buddy, from the early scenes in the film he is subtly set up as a kind of twisted father figure, with Griff (Jon Bernthal) even referring to him and his girlfriend Darling as “mommy and daddy”.
Of all the other robbers in the film, Bud is set up as the most sympathetic, praising Baby on his driving and urging Griff and later Bats (Jamie Foxx) to leave him alone and not bother him about not speaking. They even bond over music when Bud reveals he used to be a “wheel-man” once as well and asks Baby what his killer track is – “the one that really gets you flying” – which turns out to be the face-melting guitar solo boasting ‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen. This foreshadows the final encounter of course when Buddy, like baby’s father, turns from kind patriarch to raging maniac.
The Fantasy Fades But We Still Get A Happy Ending, Sort Of
Following Baby defeating Buddy, he and Deborah finally get to live their fantasy, with Deborah even playing the recording of Baby’s mother singing ‘Easy’, which is the first time we hear the song clearly (having been played backwards in flashback scenes). Clearly symbolic for Baby finally being able to let go of his mother’s death, Wright takes this further when they come to a roadblock and rather than drive, Baby gives himself up, no longer needing to rely on vehicular violence.
Just as Baby lets go of his fantasy of life on the run, so do we as audience members let go of our fantasy of the usual Hollywood happy ending where our hero and their love drive off into the sunset. Instead, we get an admittance of guilt, time served, and a real-life lovers reunion. Having finally let go of his coping mechanisms and his trauma, Baby can finally live a real life and no longer just a fantasy.
Whether it’s action-packed car chases, a thunderous soundtrack or complex relationships, Baby Driver is not for the faint-hearted. It is though, one hell of a ride.