Sound and Vision
If there were ever a couple of movies that exemplified the difference style can make to the same story, Drive and Baby Driver would be those movies. Both have familiar elements – the getaway petrolhead who works for a psychopath then meets a girl and plans to get out, only for the world he’s caught up in having other ideas. Both are highly stylised pieces of genre cinema, but whereas the former is brooding, gritty and brutal, Wright’s movie plays like a judicious dollop of cinematic ice cream – his forth flavour of cornetto. It’s a sugar rush and 40 licks.
Wright’s film is a celebration of synchronous sound and vision, employing an in-story device, an earbud antihero with tinnitus who pumps in the playlists from his collection of iPods, to toy with the possibilities of percussive editing. In effect, Baby Driver is the “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence from Wright’s Sean of the Dead extended to feature length. The overall effect is hypnotic, sometimes exhilarating, but the lack of a sharp wit to rival the precision of the cuts and musical cues, prevents good material becoming great.
The movie recalls Noughties’ Tarantino, and QT’s pre-Kill Bill boast that he knew he was the shit but now felt he had to prove it. Some would say that all he’s subsequently proved is that he can write a witty, irreverent screenplay with oodles of first class hardboiled dialogue or employ technical virtuosity and a mastery of mise-en-scene but curiously, as of 2017, not both in the same picture. Baby Driver is a spiritual successor to technocratic-tino because it too is a great showcase for its director’s technical abilities. But where, you ask, is the edge? Wright’s made a valentine to the editing suite and the craft of sampling (what Baby does with cassettes and a few home studio bits, Wright does with the film’s forerunners and musical influences) but neglected to flesh out his characters or convince us they’re any more than the sum of their plot function.
What you get is a movie, like Tarantino’s most indulgent, that would play best with movie characters rather than real audiences; a film that acts as a video for its own soundtrack.
You’re left feeling that if Wright and Tarantino ever collaborated they’d probably make the perfect genre movie. It’s not that Wright’s dialogue isn’t economic or clipped, there’s not a wasted vowel, but its sing-song mock poetic quality – “at the wheel or in a wheelchair” – blunts the movie’s dramatic edge. It flags its artifice. That’s what Wright’s aiming for sure enough, an unadulterated auteur wank. But great movies, the ones you carry with you, beat off the audience not the man holding the megaphone.