For my critical analysis, I have chosen to carry out an in-depth textual analysis into Edgar Wright’s most recent film “Baby Driver” (2017). Starring Ansel Elgort as the lead role “Baby” an experienced but young driver (hence the title) for gangsters performing robbery’s. I have chosen this film because there is many hidden messages and themes behind the scenes that we will be looking at. Throughout this document, I will also be using media material such as images and videos to help back up
my interpretations of the films intentions. For this in-depth textual analysis, I have selected certain scenes that convey mise en scene, narrative and style that Edgar Wright seamlessly implanted into one of his best films yet. In this film, there is many scenes that use extraordinary editing that positions aspects like camera cuts, character movement and diegetic sounds in time with the very selective soundtrack. This technique is called cutting to the beat. It’s rarely seen in movies and more common in music videos considering they’re clips are entirely around one piece of music. However, it’s very common in Baby Driver and is used for nearly every scene. I believe this technique is used to immerse you into the shoes of the main character Baby who is constantly listening to music and who may believe that his entire life is one big music video. This could also have been used to create something very original by presenting this action romp as somewhat of a musical except with guns, cars and action. So, to summarise this technique may well appear a lot throughout this textual analysis.
The first scene that I have chosen to analyse is the intro to the film that starts with the car full of gangsters pulling up to a bank. As previously mentioned, cutting to the beat is used in nearly every scene, including this one. Straight from the get-go, once the car pulls up you see Baby playing a song on an iPod which is edited to change shot to a close-up of all the characters sitting in the car in time with the strum of the guitar from the very same song. This is where the diegetic sounds come into play as certain sounds like car doors opening, the trunk of the car and natural sounds like beeping cars are used in time with the song. As said before, I interpret this to mean that Baby sees his life as some kind of music video as at one point later in the film, during another heist, he even stops other characters from leaving the car and starts his song from the beginning to play in time with the heist. Anyway, back to the intro, as the three gangsters leave the car you notice that they are all wearing black. However, Baby is wearing a black and white jacket. To me, this symbolises his shaky ideology on existing in the crime world. But we’ll address this later. Then from here you see a variation of different shots of Baby singing along to the song while interacting with his car like with the windscreen wipers and tapping against the side of the car in time with the song. This section of the intro also pays
homage to the music video that Edgar Wright directed in 2003 for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song”. Both these pieces of work that Edgar Wright has done are almost identical in both narrative and editing following the same techniques as well. You even see a quick glimpse of this music video later in the film on the TV until Baby quickly changes the channel (EdgarWrightHere, 2009. Blue Song ~ Mint Royale – dir. Edgar Wright (2003) [video, online]. YouTube. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHbndkcLM6A [Accessed 15 January 2018]). Now back to Baby Driver, once they’re in the getaway, there is even more cutting to the beat that’s almost hard to keep track of. The list of diegetic sounds used are endless with sirens, cars beeping and even the sound of tires screeching. It’s simply unbelievable.
As previously mentioned with Baby’s clothing and his grasp on the criminal world. Although Baby drives these criminals away from the crime scene and the authorities, he doesn’t see himself as one of them who is willing to kill to succeed, this is witnessed a lot throughout the film as a personal moral of his until the end.
There are also a few nods to this theory by other characters talking about how he’s doomed for belonging in that world. For example, after the very first heist we see “Griff” (Jon Bernthal) trying to find out what his deal is and says “You can’t just be in crime, right? Not without being a little criminal.” He also says “One of these days, Baby, you’re gonna get blood on your hands, and you’re gonna find out that that shit don’t wash off in the fucking sink.” As well as this, later in the film “Bats” (Jamie Foxx) also says “In this business, the moment you catch feelings… Is the moment you catch a bullet.” All of this leads to how it’s only a matter of time till he commits a crime other than being their driver. The operative one being taking a life or his life being taken instead for someone he loves.
The next scene that I’ll be analysing is another scene early in the film and is directly after the scene previously analysed. Much like the first scene, this one is introduced through another track that Baby is listening to. This is by far the most artistic scene throughout the film. It starts off with a shot of a building and a title. Nothing special here except in the building behind the title is two yellow lines representing the lines in the middle of a road. Earlier on in this essay, I discussed the idea that Baby Driver has the potential to be a musical due to its constant theatrical play with music and action. I also believe that this scene proves this as the main focus is Baby listening to a song and dancing around the scenes environment much like the classic musical/comedy “Singing In The Rain” (Gene Kelly, 1952). What’s artistic and special about this scene is it uses its natural surroundings to emphasise the song and how Baby sees the world. For example, on
multiple occasions the lyrics to the song that Baby is listening to will be in shot, graffitied on lampposts and walls as Baby is walking past them. It also uses diegetic sounds to do the same with beeps of cars and even the sound of an ATM is in time with the song. I would detail all the visual and sound cues but due to the fascinating amount that there is, I’ll briefly describe the better ones. From these examples alone, you can tell that Edgar Wright will use any possible sound that may appear in an ordinary day in New York. At one point, they even use the bell that’s attached to the door of a coffee shop to enhance the song. But it doesn’t stop there, as Baby even performs some of the actions sang in the lyrics as well. For instance, once the trumpet of the song is introduced, Baby is pretending to play the same instrument but in front of a musical instrument store. He is also in sync to song by sliding past civilians and cars when the lyrics read “slide” (Byrd, B, Nelson, B. 1963. Harlem Shuffle. Marc Records. Available from: https://genius.com/Bob-and-earl-harlem-shuffle-lyrics. [Accessed 16th January 2018]) Which brings me to the camera movement. For a scene that looks so simple yet complex underneath, the shot composition in fantastic. The range of shots in this scene are very varied. You’ve got it all from close-ups to over the shoulder but what mesmerises me is that this entire scene is filmed in one shot. As well as the multiple different types of shot used, it’s breathtaking to see that such a complex scene is filmed in one entire shot with absolutely no cuts. I also believe that the desire to film it all in one go must have caused a lot of strain due to the flawless timing of surroundings and Ansel Elgort’s positioning. My interpretation of this scene is it enforces the idea that Baby is so connected to his songs that he sees them as part of his reality with what’s happening around him. This point can even be argued with the fact that later in the film you discover he records conversations and turns them into songs in his apartment. Also with a scene like this, I believe that Edgar Wright’s true intentions with this scene is for us to live Baby’s story with him and to see the world for how he sees it.
With all the consistent editing in this film, I believe that the sole intention for it is to immerse you into the main character’s story. This is done incredibly well with the use of this editing technique that keeps popping up in both scenes that I have analysed and many more in the rest of the film. It creates a sense of engagement with the audience that allows us as watchers to experience the same events as Baby by simply aligning what’s happening within the film with what Baby is listening to on his iPod. It also helps to relate to him on a simpler level as throughout the film he is only seen as just a guy even to the multiple criminals that he drives around. A strong example of this would be the ringing in Baby’s ears. One of the biggest concepts in the film is that Baby is suffering from Tinnitus from a childhood accident. This means that he has a constant ringing in his ears which is why he listens to music all the time so that he can drown it out. So, to immerse the audience even more, in certain scenes when Baby doesn’t have any ear phones in his ears there is a faint ringing in the background of the scene to represent what Baby is hearing and experiencing. For example, after Bats knocks out Baby and is woken up to the gangsters finding his tapes that have been created from recordings of meetings, there is a constant ringing because Baby isn’t wearing any ear phones. However, once they ask him to play one of the tapes, the ringing disappears. This enforces the idea of the audience hearing what Baby is hearing. This obviously works both ways as when Baby is listening to music it’s always playing in the background for him and for us as the audience. I believe Edgar Wright chose to do this to build a strong connection between Baby and the audience to make Baby’s story more impactful and relatable.
The last and final scene that we’ll be analysing is the ending. Now earlier on in the film once Baby meets the love interest “Deborah” (Lily James) they mention a few times that all they want to do is to get in a car they can’t afford, hit the road and listen to music and never turn back. Then later in the film, Baby has a dream sequence depicting Deborah standing in front of a car in black and white. It makes sense for Baby to dream about this as he would have the three things he loves most in life: Deborah, music and a car. Then
at the end, once Baby has been sentenced to prison you see this exact same dream of Deborah in front of the car and Baby. However, this time you see Baby leave the prison with a shot of him in front of the prison gates. Continuity-wise, the same camera shots are used in both the dream sequence and the end. The same black and white colouring is still present but it slowly fades into normal colouring giving the impression that it’s coming to life. The costume is almost alike to the dream in Deborah’s case although for Baby he was wearing a darker shirt in the dream but just a plain white top at the end. This could symbolise his purity. After paying the punishment for his crimes and repenting for those he has done wrong. One of the biggest debates about this is whether it is real or just another dream and Baby is actually still in prison. When I first saw the film, I believed that it was real due to it starting off just like the dream with the black and white but then giving the impression of it coming to life with the colouring changing back to normal. However, after looking at this scene carefully I noticed a rainbow in the background which got me thinking. Earlier on in the film, Baby goes to inspect a post office and talks with one of the clerks. She starts talking about Dolly Parton and reads one of her quotes: “Everybody wants happiness, everybody wants pain. But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain”. Edgar Wright excellently foreshadows the ending here by presenting the message of you can’t have a happy ending without a downfall or without going to prison in this case. This still could mean that the end is not a dream but I believe it is due to the fact that there is not one drop of rain to be seen at the end. Not on the floor or not in the sky. To me, it’s merely just Baby dreaming of this happy ending while still being in prison and receiving post cards from Deborah. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an image online to show said rainbow to back up my argument but I will include a hyperlink to a YouTube video of the ending.
Baby Driver is one of the most artistic, stylish and genius films of 2017 and even in the world. Edgar Wright delivers an incredible, action filled romp of a film that caters to all types of audiences whether it be to hard-core music experts, filmmakers or action heads. It’s certainly a film with the whole package.
References for figures:
Figure 1: HD Wallpapers, 2017. Baby Driver 2017 4K 8K Wallpapers | HD Wallpapers [wallpaper] HD Wallpapers, Available from: https://www.hdwallpapers.in/baby_driver_2017_4k_8k-wallpapers.html [Accessed 14th January 2018]
Figure 2: YouTube, 2017, Baby Driver Opening Scene/Mint Royale Blue Song (side by side) [thumbnail] YouTube: Myles HB, Available from: https://www.google.co.uk/search?biw=1821&bih=867&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=N7VeWrzpAamLgAaQjISAAQ&q=baby+driver+first+scene&oq=baby+driver+first+scene&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i24k1l2.359348.377139.0.3773184.108.40.206.220.127.116.111.3008.0j6j4j2j1.14.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..5.18.3323.0..0i67k1.62.nbAmol-g8-E#imgrc=B_TTjnlkmF00QM:&spf=1516156597867 [Accessed 15th January 2018]
Figure 3: Blueprint: Review, 2017, Baby Driver | Blueprint: Review [photograph] Blueprint; Review: David Brook. Available from: http://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/10/baby-driver/ [Accessed 15th January 2018]
Figure 4: imgur, 2017, Every graffiti in “Baby Driver” that is a part from “Harlem Shuffle” lyrics [screenshot] imgur. Available from: https://imgur.com/r/movies/qYCON [Accessed 16th January 2018]
Figure 5: YouTube, 2017, “Easy” ending scene | Baby Driver (2017) [thumbnail] YouTube: Satria Wicaksana Adhipurusa, Available from: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=baby+driver+ending&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihmevgid7YAhVBJcAKHdLkD_wQ_AUICygC&biw=1821&bih=867#imgrc=WyHu1FvLd7eYiM:&spf=1516160443994%5BAccessed 16th January 2018]