MOVIE BUFF-ET: Hot soundtrack, tight dialogue, killer performances fuel ‘Baby Driver’

Sony Pictures

You might find a better action movie this year than “Baby Driver,” but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Director Edgar Wright’s latest flick has the substance to go with his impeccable style and taste. “Baby Driver” is a heist film, and a good one on those merits alone. However, Wright infuses the film with an energy that scorches the big screen just like Baby’s (Ansel Elgort) mad driving skills do to the streets of Atlanta.

“Baby Driver” is likely to be Elgort’s ride to stardom. He’s shown his talents in lesser films like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Divergent,” but after this film, his career is charted on a trajectory toward Hollywood’s A-list.

New In Local Theaters

  • Baby Driver (R) 1hr. 53 min.
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    » Watch trailer
  • Despicable Me 3 (PG) 1 hr. 30 min.
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  • The House (R) 1 hr. 28 min.
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  • The Beguiled (R) 1 hr. 34 min.
    (Malco Razorback)
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However, what sets this film apart from other movies is Wright’s deft use of a musical catalogue that sets the beat for a thrilling cinematic experience that really needs to be seen and heard in a theater.

The soundtrack, which is at once familiar and yet intriguing, sets the tone, scene by scene more effectively than any film in recent memory, and yes, that includes the Academy Award-winning “La La Land” from last Christmas.

The last film I remember seeing in which the soundtrack was as impactful to me was “Jaws” back in the summer of 1975. The music is that integral to the film.

Baby drives, walks, runs, and lives to his own beat, played on his collection MP3 players. A childhood accident left him with a “hum in the drum” as Doc (Kevin Spacey) describes Baby’s tinnitus. Baby uses his extensive library of jams to drown out the buzzing in his head.

After a thrilling opening chase sequence where we learn what Baby can do behind the wheel, Wright serves of a spicy one shot of Baby dancing through town to his tunes. It’s masterfully choreographed scene with a complexity lesser director’s would never attempt. But, Wright is one of the most distinctive and original directors working in Hollywood.

The scene is a distinctive sequence that made me want to see the movie in a theater again. The combination of attitude, music, dance, and sight gags was just a pleasure to watch, and I want to see it again.

The dialogue from the Wright’s screenplay is the most entertaining I’ve heard this year, and its executed by a murder’s row of performers including Jaimie Foxx, Jon Ham, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, and of course Elgort, Spacey and the lovely Lilly James as Deborah.

Baby meets Deborah at a diner he regularly frequents, and both become immediately smitten. They want to escape their current situations and to experience the freedom of the road.

However, two things are holding them back. Baby owes a debt to Doc, which he is paying off by serving as the getaway driver for each of the heists Doc plans for a revolving cylinder of expert thugs, thieves, and murderers.

Secondly, Baby is also responsible for his foster father, Joseph (C.J. Jones), who is deaf, mute, and confined to a wheelchair.

Baby’s plan is to even the score with Doc, find a safe home for Joseph, and then hit the road with Deborah and never look back.

But nothing is that easy for Baby, and that’s a good thing because the ride he and Wright take us on adds up to what is likely to be the coolest film of the summer.

(R) 1hr. 53 min.
Grade: A

Classic Corner

The Beguiled

By 1971 Clint Eastwood had already developed his iconic “Man with No Name” Western personae from his time as a TV star on “Rawhide” and from his Spaghetti Westerns under the lens of director Sergio Leone.

Later that year, he would craft his other iconic film character with director Don Siegel, with the brutal no-nonsense detective Dirty Harry Callahan.

His Dirty Harry and Western films formed the foundation of his career, but Eastwood has starred in more than 50 films, and one of the creepiest was another collaboration with Siegel, “The Beguiled.”

The movie, based on the novel “A Painted Devil” by Thomas P. Cullinan, tells the story of an injured Union soldier, who is taken in by the ladies of an all-girls school in Mississippi during the Civil War.

The women and girls at the school are wary of the handsome Yankee, but also more than a little intrigued. Eastwood’s character John McBurney uses all his masculine wiles to beguile the ladies and girls of the school, even sweet little Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin) and her pet box turtle.

Edwina (Geraldine Page), a teacher at the school, is smitten instantly by McBurney, but is able to ward off temptation; however, teenage student Carol (Jo Ann Harris) shows little restraint. Even the saintly Miss Martha Farnsworth can’t resist McBurney’s allure. She throws herself at him, but becomes angry when Eastwood resists.

However, she’s not as angry as Edwina is when she catches McBurney in the act with the precocious Carol in bed. Tempers flare, an accident happens, and you won’t believe what the twists and turns this gothic romance that borders on a horror story ends up taking.

I’m not quite sure where this movie ranks in Eastwood’s oeuvre, but “The Beguiled” is one of those films that draws you in and won’t let you go.

A remake of the movie by director Sofia Coppola (“Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation”) opens today. It’s said that Coppola puts more of feminist spin on the movie that stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Colin Ferrell in Eastwood’s role.

It will be interesting to compare the new film, which received good notices after its debut at Cannes earlier this summer, with the original.