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Baby – a talented, young getaway driver - relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. But, after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love, and freedom. (From Sony’s official synopsis)

 Baby Driver
It’s easy enough to complain that Marvel Studio’s meddling robbed us of a Edgar Wright-directed Ant-Man movie, but the sadder truth is that the time he spent developing that unfilmed superhero epic probably robbed us of more than one Wright-helmed picture. The four-year wait since the release of The World’s End (2013) is finally over and brings with it his first feature not written alongside partner Simon Pegg and not based on a pre-existing property, Baby Driver. Well, it’s not entirely based on a pre-existing property. In terms of its basic story, Baby Driver is deliberately derivative, recalling a number of “one more job” heist stories, to the point that particularly befuddled folks confused it with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) or Eran Creevy’s Collide (2016), based on its generic trailer. Like many directors of his generation (and just before it), Wright tends to set his movies on the foundation of established stories ( Shaun of the Dead is a zombie movie, Hot Fuzz is a buddy cop picture, The World’s End is an apocalypse movie mixed with a ‘you can never go home again’ story) – then builds a tight, callback-heavy narrative framework. Baby Driver is a little different in that its simple story is less of a narrative bedrock than a canvas for the flashy precision of its visuals. In turn, story inspiration is drawn from other visually-driven heist movies, like Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway (1972) and Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978), the latter of which was also one of Drive’s key inspirations.

Wright effectively wanted to make a musical where the song & dance sequences are replaced by highly choreographed car chases and gunplay. This creates a unique challenges and requires significantly more editing control than the typical action flick, where the rhythms of the chase can be dictated by a filmmaker’s ‘feel,’ rather than the established rhythms of someone else’s popular rock song. The resulting heist sequences are infectious in the extreme and all the fresher in a world of over-cut, digital effect-draped blockbusters. These chases are fantastic achievements and the main reason to celebrate Baby Driver, but the meat and potatoes of the meal are the similarly musical, thematic strings that connect them. Wright being Wright, even the mundane imagery is slathered in clever nods to the music (parts of lyrics written on walls, props that match the instrument currently playing, et cetera), thus ensuring consistency between action bits, even without the benefit of too many cheeky one-liners.

 Baby Driver
Still, despite all of the good things I’ve said and the excuses I’ve made for the lack of original story, I was still constantly aware of the adherence to formula, especially during the action-free middle act. The characters suffer the most from this devotion to these patterns. Wright’s previous films have always managed to draw real emotional meaning from their stock personalities. His satire often sits a step above the competition because his characters can inspire a lump in the throat even as they directly reference storytelling clichés. I’ve read reviews that complain about the quality of Ansel Elgort’s performance, calling him miscast, but I’m not sure even the most charming and talented actor could do much with the role. Baby’s traits are all tied to his part in the formula and his affection for a certain kind of pop culture. His slightly unusual friendship with an elderly, Deaf guardian ends up being the most likeable thing about him – not because he’s unlikable, but because it’s really the audience’s job to care more about the archetype he represents than his personality. None of this really dulls the joy of the film’s momentum and clever action scenes, nor would I call any of the antagonists/supporting players boring. To the contrary, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx are plenty intense and establish a genuinely frightening tone as the film descends into its final 40 minutes. I just can’t help but wonder if the gimmick got the better of Wright this time.

Video


It appears that Baby Driver was shot using both 35mm and Arri Alexa digital cameras, but there’s very little, if any significant difference from one shot to another. My best guess is that a majority of the footage is 35mm and that the digital inserts were adjusted to match. Either way, the image quality is pretty consistent and only occasional posterisation effects really indicate the presence of film grain. Otherwise, film and digital grain is fine, verging on nonexistent (outside of darker interiors), thanks to cinematographer Bill Pope’s subtly soft photography. This is Pope’s third film with Wright, following Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The World’s End, and the two have developed a relatively standardized look now; one that only slightly eschews a natural appearance with teal/turquoise internal lighting and pumped-up reds and greens. Given the lack of sci-fi elements and obvious special effects (as seen in Scott Pilgrim and World’s End), Baby Driver features a mostly natural palette that excels on this 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray due to its eclectic nature. Elements are neatly separated and free of notable compression artefacts throughout the smoother blends.

 Baby Driver

Audio


Baby Driver is presented in crisp and super-dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This is one of those cases where the sound quality is probably more important that the image quality, so I’m happy to report everything is expertly mixed and perfectly represented. Being an action film first and foremost, there are, of course, plenty of screeching tires and gunshots, but the outstanding aural moments mostly relate directly to musical cues. This includes the directional ‘reassignment’ of established pop hits, subjective representations (for example, the change in stereo volume when Baby removes one of his earphones), and the integration of music and effects (i.e. gunshots matching drum beats). The highlight of the whole thing is the foot chase set to Focus’ bizarro rock opus “Hocus Pocus,” where sound effects and other source music are blended like a dance club remix. Steven Price’s score fills the cracks between the integral pop tunes with waxing and waning string motifs.

Extras


  • Director’s commentary – The first commentary features the typically informative and charming director speaking alone. This track covers all aspects of the production with emphasis on development, themes, and writing.
  • Commentary with Edgar Wright and cinematographer Bill Pope – The second track has surprisingly little overlap with the previous track and sticks slightly closer to technical aspects of the movie.
  • Eleven extended/deleted scenes (20:28, HD)
  • That's My Baby: Edgar Wright (9:18, HD) – Wright talks about developing the film for more than a decade, while cast & crew members celebrate his vision.        
  • Mozart In A Go-Kart: Ansel Drives (5:52, HD) – Concerning Ansel Elgort’s training with the stunt driving team.                                  
  • I Need A Killer Track: The Music (6:14, HD) – Wright breaks down his musical choices and the challenges of editing around the songs.              
  • Meet Your New Crew: Doc's Gang (10:55, HD) – A look at the cast and the characters they play.
  • Find Something Funky On There: The Choreography (6:08, HD) – The cast & crew discuss the complicated process of tailoring almost every scene to the music.
  • Devil Behind The Wheel: The Car Chases (6:46, HD) – The final featurette goes behind-the-scenes of the intricate car stunts, from locations and car choices to photography, practical execution, and minimal digital effects.
  • Eight animatic samples (35:42, HD) – Including a mix of digital animation and the stunt team’s home videos.
  • Ansel Elgort audition tape (4:39, HD)
  • Annotated “coffee run” rehearsal tape (3:27, HD)                                              
  • Hair, make-up & costume tests (8:56, HD)
  • Mint Royale "Blue Song" music video (4:15, HD)
  • Storyboard gallery
  • Trailers and musical promos
  • Trailers for other Sony releases


 Baby Driver

Overall


Baby Driver feels like a culmination of skills that director Edgar Wright has developed over his short, exciting career and definitely one of the year’s most exciting action spectacles (too bad that pesky John Wick 2 was also released in 2017). That said, it finds itself so wrapped up in its technical perfection that it loses some of the heart and thematic strength that set Wright’s comedies apart. Sony’s Blu-ray comes packed a with nice, natural-looking transfer, a fantastic DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and loads of extras, fronted by deleted/extended scenes, dual commentaries, and extensive animatics.

 Baby Driver

 Baby Driver

 Baby Driver
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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