Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver opens everywhere June 28th, and there are a hundred reasons why you need to go see it. There’s the sharp and quick-witted dialogue that audiences have come to expect from Wright. There’s his patented camerawork and editing that creates a visual experience few filmmakers today can match. The chase scenes are about some of the best ever put to film. And you have to appreciate the standout performances from the veteran actors and newbies alike. But the real reason to see Baby Driver – the reason everyone is going to be talking about – is the sound. This is hands down one of the best uses of sound/music in a movie ever.
*Warning – Mild Spoilers Ahead For Baby Driver*
(But Nothing That Ruins The Plot)
Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getaway driver working to pay off some debt. Baby is one of the best in the biz, but he comes with a quirk: he’s constantly listening to music. “Constantly” as in every waking moment (unless he has to speak to someone). The music very much becomes a character in itself, and Wright weaves it in so seamlessly with the story that there’s no way the film doesn’t receive a nomination for Best Sound Mixing and/or Editing. The music blends with the environment so that not a single sound is wasted. Car sounds, people talking, construction, explosions, even ATM machines, all play in tune with Baby’s music. The city of Atlanta becomes a symphony.
So why the emphasis on the sound? On a simple level, Baby is just trying to drown out his tinnitus. On a slightly deeper level, he wants to remember his mom, an amateur singer who introduced him to music. But by the film’s end, you realize that it was always so much deeper than even that. Wright used the music and sound to tell the audience who Baby was, and how his story was going to play out, from the start.
We meet Baby in the film’s opening scene during a bank heist. He’s sitting in the getaway car – a boosted red Subaru – while Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Eliza González go to work. He’s jamming out to “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. And by “jamming out,” I mean jamming the f*ck out. Dancing, singing at the top of his lungs, the whole nine yards. In that moment, thanks to the music, we know who Baby is. He’s calm, cool, and composed when other drivers would be anxious. He’s groovy.
As Baby Driver progresses, we learn that our hero records everyday sounds and voices and mixes them together to make sick tracks like this one:
So Baby isn’t only a fan of music, but he also creates it. He’s not just an outsider looking in; he’s one with the music.
And therein lies the rub. Look at the first page of the Baby Driver script, which Edgar Wright shared:
“You are the music while the music lasts.” We’ve established that Baby is one with the music, but how long will that last? Well his music never ends, remember? He plays it constantly. It just keeps going, and that implies how he wants to live. He just wants to move forward, blending in with the symphony of the world as his music does. The script’s second quote echoes this sentiment as well. It’s a line from “Baby Driver,” the song from which the film borrows its title, which is all about a man who “hit[s] the road” and is gone. To further this point, the soundtrack places a heavy emphasis on jazz, which is infamously about freedom and living without restrictions.
And there you have it. We just broke down the essence of Baby Driver while only barely discussing the plot or characters. That’s why the use of sound and music in the film is so masterful. Wright takes a visual medium and uses audio to make his point. You can close your eyes and still hear a story about freedom, and about breaking off the shackles of your life. You can join the symphony of the world around you, if you only listen and go with your groove.