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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REVIEW: BABY DRIVER puts Atlanta in the spotlight

Thanks to millions of dollars in tax credits, Georgia has become a beacon for filmmakers in recent years looking for financially sound locations to film a movie. While plenty of that filming takes place in more rural locations, others such as Marvel movies (basically all of them these days) to comedies like Anchorman 2, are shot in and near Atlanta. But these films almost never showcase the city as itself. Instead, Atlanta plays as a fictional city or a stand-in for better known cities, like New York. 

In Baby Driver, Atlanta finally gets to stand in the foreground instead of being masked for something else. From casually referring to "Spaghetti Junction" to picking up coffee from Octane, director Edgar Wright lets the characters inhabit the city proper. In addition to that local flair that will speak to so many from the city, Baby Driver displays style in spades, paired with a gorgeous soundtrack and snappy scenes that will look familiar to any Wright fan.

Baby Driver stars Ansel Esgort as Baby, the best getaway driver you've ever seen. Baby works under the thumb of Doc (Kevin Spacey), working to repay a debt he owes Doc for stealing some merchandise of his as a teenager. Working towards that proverbial "last job" that will set Baby free from Doc's world of crime, Baby keeps his eyes on the road and his earbuds at the ready, requiring a soundtrack to pull of his heists and drown out the incessant ringing in his ears caused by an accident from his childhood. 

Unfortunately that "last job" is never really a last job, and Baby soon realizes he's endangered his foster father (CJ Jones) and the brand new love of his life, Deborah (Lily James). Danger, lots of car chases, and more heists ensue. 

Baby Driver is all about the small details and precision: from making sure the film really feels like it belongs in Atlanta, to highlighting the importance of the music selection by making it an actual plot point, Baby Driver does a lot of things right that you wouldn't even think to notice. It does a great job at the bigger details too: the opening scene features a white-knuckle car chase that stole my breath. 

That said, while this is still recognizable as a Wright film, it's probably the most unique film he's done so far. I would say Baby Driver features less of the signature quirk factor than Wright's previous films have shown, instead creating a distinct tone for this film - the humor is still there but it's less dry, largely centered around Kevin Spacey's dialogue, leaving Baby as more of the typical "straight man" of the bunch. 

After so many years of playing the background character, it was fantastic to see a film that features Atlanta front-and-center. The fact that it's a great film is icing on the proverbial cake.

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