by Andrew Carpenter
If Baby Driver doesn’t win an Oscar this coming February, I will quit my job at McDonald’s.
I continue to stand by the statement that this movie deserves an Oscar more than Leonardo DiCaprio’s entire body of work.
I like a lot of movies, and even though I’m not Trevor, and therefore I am relegated to the category of a “rotten tomato” on the film review front, I still can notice when a movie does a particular thing or two well, and Baby Driver certainly does that. Before I dive into one of my favorite opening scenes of all time, and discuss the elaborate choreography of the apartment scene and the thought-provoking use of colors light yellow, white, and gray, I’d like to make something very clear; Baby Driver is a musical, and a damn good one at that. Despite IMDB.com listing “Music” as the third category that this film falls into, I believe that this movie is one of the most unique musicals ever produced. Steven Price, academy award-winning composer and a big part of movies like Gravity (2013), Fury (2014), and Suicide Squad (2016), did an incredible job and blending the music that Baby and the other characters were listening to in the movie with the visual presented to the audience. And that’s not to mention Bill Pope, director of choreography, or Edgar Wright, writer and director and winner of numerous awards, for possibly the greatest blend of action and dance ever created.
The first scene alone, stands as a testament to the fact that an action movie can most definitely also be a musical. The scene starts off with Baby’s red 2006 Subaru WRX rolling into sight of a bank, and his crew, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, and Eiza González, exiting the vehicle in tune to “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Immediately we get insight into the main character; he knows his cars and he knows his music, and the following cuts show Baby playfully singing along and performing to the song while his crew takes control of the bank.
The scene really kicks off however when the crew exit the bank and get back into the car. The camera stays on Baby as he reverses, and the car rhythmically dances around the corner behind him. Wright’s alternating shots between a close up of Baby’s face and the car’s movements from an outside shot, highlights Baby’s point of view; only him and the car matter. The connection between Baby and the car is only reinforced through the next few shots as Baby quickly accelerates and then pulls the parking brake to drift away from an oncoming car, avoiding a possible collision and forcing the police car behind him to crash into the oncoming sedan. Merely 20 seconds later, Wright again reinforces the connection between Baby and what’s happening outside of the car with a cheeky shot capturing both the cop in the rear view mirror and the road ahead–all from Baby’s perspective.
Pope’s choreography really shines in the last half of this opening scene as Baby seems almost to dance around the cops both in and around the interstate. At one point, a policeman throws out tire spikes onto the road in front of Baby. The shot quickly moves to Baby’s face and then to the back tire as Baby almost seems to turn and ‘kick’ the spikes with his car, nudging them in front of an oncoming police car rather than the Subaru. Then, in the final moments of the scene, Baby’s driving truly shines as he pulls in between two other red sedans on the interstate. As soon as the cars are shielded from the view of the ensuing helicopters, Baby jumps ahead of the Chevy on the left and slams his brakes, causing the other car to swerve into Baby’s previous lane. A seemingly flawless execution of this move provides key evidence as to why this movie is a perfect blend of both a musical and an action movie; the maneuver is intense and dramatic as both the viewer and Baby recognize the police are not far behind, evoking a sense of excitement from the viewers and leaving them impressed due to the simple grace with which Baby manages to pull off this maneuver.
Though Baby maintains an underlying color scheme of white and black as highlighted by his clothing, Edgar Wright very purposefully stresses the use of yellow. Not only does yellow serve as a symbol of Baby’s innocence, but it acts as a catalyst for calm which seeps into Baby’s busy world. As a result of its calming sentiment for Baby, the yellow color remains associated with all of the characters in Baby’s life who bring him a feeling of peace and comfort while also reminding Baby that he is not a hateful or malicious character. Take Debora for example: in the first scene in which she appears, she wears a yellow skirt foreshadowing the light, positive energy she will bring into Baby’s life. With a new feeling of security, Baby is given the freedom and space to slow down and be vulnerable. In addition, it should be noted that in each scene during which Baby walks around in the apartment he shares with his friend, the background behind him is usually painted yellow, signaling that he can locate a feeling of balance in this space. The source of the calming meaning that yellow adopts in the film for Baby can be traced back to his mother, who often wore yellow and cared for Baby before his world became so fast. In addition, one other notable element of the color yellow and its symbolism in Baby Driver lies behind the fact that whether Baby likes it or not, everything in his world revolves around him, and he stands at the center of all that takes place within his city. Though he remains a focal point throughout the movie, when he is surrounded by the color yellow, Baby becomes an equal to those near him and the given scene is no longer just about him. Ultimately, the yellow humanizes Baby and reveals his innocence and vulnerability, adding dimension and depth to his character, only further accrediting Wright’s brilliance as a writer/director.
One unique scene that demands investigation occurs in Baby’s apartment while he prepares lunch for his friend. Though there is relatively no dialogue between the characters in this scene, Baby’s movement around the kitchen and the upbeat tune in the background work together to tell a story. As demonstrated from the beginning of, and throughout the movie, Baby takes cues from sounds as his mind constantly races. While he shies away from expressing the physical manifestation of the powerful emotions and movements he encounters when listening to music in front of those with whom he lacks secure trust, the barricade Baby defines outside of his home falls once he feels comfortable being vulnerable. One interesting aspect of Baby’s movement that should be noted is how purposeful and well-thought out it is when he is in public as opposed to the free nature with which he moves about in the comfort of his home. In particular, whenever driving, Baby’s actions are precise and calculated down to the exact second; however, when he walks down the street free of external pressures, he moves with fluidity and exudes a carefree, upbeat attitude. This same sense of comfort and positivity weaves itself into the apartment scene and helps illuminate the cheerful side of Baby and the fun-loving relationship Baby fosters with the old man with whom he lives.
Now while I have only reviewed the first 15 minutes of this movie, I swear upon my career as a journalist that the rest of this movie is just as intense, just as thought provoking, and just as beautiful as the first three scenes. Baby’s journey through this world of crime with Debora at his side is a story that is told with the utmost detail to craft and excellence and I officially consider it to be in my top five favorite movies ever.
I’d like to quickly add that this movie is not currently on Netflix, and while I do not endorse the viewing of this movie through means determined illegal by our federal government, I do endorse the watching of this movie however you can get your hands on it. Happy viewing folks!