‘Baby Driver’ adds new musicality to action genre

By Marilyn MacLaren, Staff Writer

“Baby Driver” (2017) is an action thriller directed by Edgar Wright. The film uniquely structures what would have been a typical heist film with deliberate song and music choices that add tension and enhance the story’s flow. 

Starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, the film follows his escapades as being the cool collected getaway driver who uses music to frame his life and cope with tinnitus he sustained in a car accident when he was young.

The film also features Jon Hamm, Jaimie Foxx and Eiza Gonzalez as the crew that Baby is responsible for getting out of trouble, seen in the opening bank heist and car chase, which is paired with a rendition of “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

This music was chosen specifically for the scene by Baby, where the audience is immersed in how he views the world through his earbuds. These song choices heighten the tension in scenes and give focus to Baby as a character. 

The role of music in Baby’s life is highlighted throughout the film, from painful flashback memories of his mother to his growing connection with love interest Debora, played by Lily James. Through the music, the balance between wanting a normal life away from crime and being in the thick of it is in how Baby connects to the music, as well as the way he shares it with others. 

Baby, who lives with his deaf foster father, sings the song he first heard Debora singing in the cafe, “B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas and signs how he has found “The Girl.” At times, the romance between Elgort and James seems fast-paced and cliché. Still, the chemistry they have together makes their relationship entertaining and leaves the audience wanting them to have their happy ending together, quite literally driving off into the sunset. 

During a quiet scene between Debora and Baby, they bond over the song “Debora” by T.Rex, which reminds him of her. This small moment between them helps illustrate how James and Elgort respectively connect as their characters, establishing the effect this song has as a representation of his love for her.

Although Baby is a natural at a speedy getaway, his assistance with each heist is ultimately forced to pay off his debt to Doc, played by Kevin Spacey. His distance from the crew and its criminal activities — despite his involvement — comes to a breaking point during the climax of the film. 

Baby, attempting to warn the employee he had met when first scouting the scene for the robbery, takes action to stop it. As Baby realizes what his crew has done — particularly Bats, played by Foxx — the music and volume continue building in an anxious crescendo.

Accompanied by the speed of the windshield wipers, the alarms of surrounding cars and the intensity of his inner conflict, Baby snaps and rams the car, effectively killing Bats. This creates a new antagonist in the form of Buddy, raising the stakes for Baby as he makes his escape set to “Focus” by Hocus Pocus.

Elgort makes Baby an endearing and interesting protagonist, and his relationship with music and the world around him adds a new depth to a typical action thriller, shaping each moment and setting the tone for the overall film and nuance to each character. 

 

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