Passion is truly the name of the game here at SXSW. Every filmmaker, well-known or not, poured heart and soul into these productions, and that couldn’t be more evident when Edgar Wright premiered his new film, “Baby Driver,” at the Paramount Theatre.
Wright appeared on stage to introduce his film. He said he conceived the idea for “Baby Driver” over 20 years ago, roughly the same age as the star, Ansel Elgort. “Baby Driver” centers around Baby (Elgort), a getaway driver for robbers and criminals. At a young age, Baby endured a car accident that caused a permanent ringing in his ears. To drown it out, he continuously listens to music from old-school iPod Nanos. This motivates one of the best things about “Baby Driver”—its soundtrack. From Queen to The Champs, the film is a fantastic amalgam of classic bands and songs that literally drive the narrative forward. In the question-and-answer session, Wright said he wrote the script around the soundtrack. The cast received the song list to rehearse; they listened to the tracks while filming to perfect their movements and actions in time with the beats and notes.
The performances themselves were excellent as well. While “The Fault in Our Stars,” put Elgort on the map, he gave a breakthrough performance in “Baby Driver.” Elgort was cast in part for his musical and theatrical talents with singing, dancing and DJing, which shows in the gorgeous long takes of the film as he moves and dances effortlessly throughout the scene—in time to the music, of course. It’s not easy to hold one’s own against costars like Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, but Elgort nearly steals the show. Lily James of “Cinderella” and “Downton Abbey” fame also gives a strong performance as Deborah, Baby’s love interest. The two young actors have natural on-screen chemistry, and I’m excited for their next projects.
Wright’s vision came through masterfully. From the direction to the editing, the film flows seamlessly; Elgort said they followed Wright’s storyboards to a tee—a testament to the strength of Wright’s passion project. The stunt direction was also exceptional. The car chases and heist scenes are exhilarating; Wright said he strapped himself onto the cars at points in order to see and direct the actors, making those moments all the more exciting to watch.
My main criticism of the film is the ending. While it comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion, the scenes leading up to it feel choppy. There were a few moments where I thought the film could have ended, but then another scene came, drawing out the film slightly longer than needed.
Passion for film was also evident within the audience members. I don’t exaggerate when I say we were among the last few people to get into the theater. We arrived over an hour before the film started, shivering in the relentless rain. We were told multiple times our chances to get in were slim; a volunteer even walked down the line to tell us that the theater had reportedly reached maximum capacity. Still, nearly everyone around us remained rooted to the spot, determined to get into that theater to see that movie. The gamble paid off; we were rewarded with a stellar film screening from a stellar filmmaker in Edgar Wright. “Baby Driver” is fueled by passion from every angle, and I was thankful to experience it.