Baby Driver – Review

5 Stars

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A recent Forbes article compared Edgar Wright’s new heist comedy Baby Driver to the game series Grand Theft Auto. Arguably the best moments of Grand Theft Auto are when you are driving and the perfect song comes on the in-game radio and it brilliantly elevates the current moment, be it a frantic chase or slow sunset drive. This creates the ultimate buzz of thrilling escapism. This feeling is at Baby Driver’s heart and the film is non-stop perfect match of cars and music that is smart, slick, and sumptuous.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young getaway driver working for Doc (Kevin Spacey) who constantly plays music to drown out his tinnitus. He meets, and soon falls for, fellow music lover Debora (Lily James), but their romance is threatened by the nature of Baby’s work. The film balances the love story and the heist thriller well, creating both heart-warming and exhilarating moments. Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza González all enjoy themselves as Baby’s criminal pals and with a smattering of sinister Jon Bernthal and a sprinkling of Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, you have one of the best casts of 2017.

Humour has always been a key aspect of Wright’s work, and although Baby Driver is not a straight comedy, its jokes (both written and visual) always land. All the usual Edgarisms are also present; quick cuts, clever scene transitions, and a humorous use of sound (one highlight is a shootout where every shot is timed with the music). Although it appears quite different from his earlier work like Shaun of the Dead, this is very much an Edgar Wright movie.

If you know anything about Baby Driver then you’ll know music is the most important aspect of it. It is so integral to the film that at times it feels like you are watching a musical, with Baby singing along to his favourite tracks and the action sequences playing out like extreme dance numbers. As mentioned earlier, the film expertly catches the car-music buzz, but it also nails the little things, such as walking down a street, absorbed by what’s playing in your headphones.

Edgar Wright has revitalised the car film with Baby Driver and has cemented himself as one of the most inventive and consistently entertaining directors working today. Baby Driver is joyful, thrilling and leaves you wanting to recapture that song and speed buzz. Perhaps, for the safety of everyone on the road, you shouldn’t Baby Driver and drive.

 

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La La Land – Review

5 Stars

Ever since it premiered at the Venice Film last summer, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has been riding a wave of hype and excitement that may well culminate in a Best Picture Oscar win in this year’s Academy Awards. The film shares many of the themes – dreams, ambition and most importantly, jazz – as Chazelle’s previous film, the masterful Whiplash. However, unlike his terrifyingly intense drama, La La Land is charming, funny and bursting with joy.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star together as a wannabe actress and wannabe jazz club owner, who, after a few odd and surprising meetings, fall for each other. The chemistry between the two is perfect and really carries the romantic aspect of the film, making it both believable and charming. Ryan Gosling has proven himself as a more than capable comic actor in recent years (The Big Short and The Nice Guys are two of my favourites) and he delivers many of La La Land’s best laughs. Emma Stone has been widely praised by critics, and for good reason, delivering an award worthy performance that is not only sweet and funny, but also reflects how most of us feel about our dreams and aspirations; full of both hope and fear.

Set in L.A., La La Land, is both a love letter to the city and a movie that teases the culture of Hollywood. The camera picks up the stunning backgrounds and the bold colours of the meticulously designed sets, making the city another engaging character. But the film also likes to poke fun, with cheeky jokes that place Hollywood, acting and celebrities as their punchlines.

The music numbers are catchy, fun and are all choreographed and filmed beautifully. They follow the feel of the story well but none of them truly jumped out as musical classics. The soundtrack is worth the purchase if you liked the film, and the opening number is sure to be spoofed and copied (as it already has been by the Golden Globes), but after the credits rolled the music didn’t really stay with me like it normally does for a live stage musical. Perhaps this is due to effect that live performance has, and without it there is a little bit of magic missing. However, while the individual songs didn’t quite stay with me, and overall feeling of pure joy did.

Watching La La Land left me with the kind of film-high that comes along far too rarely. Bursting with joy just as the shots are bursting with colour, and the characters bursting with song, La La Land is a triumph that deserves the acclaim it has been receiving. With this and Whiplash under his belt (he’s only actually directed three feature films), Chazelle has truly proven himself a great director and I look forward to seeing what he does next.