“Your name’s Baby? B-A-B-Y Baby?” – Baby Driver (Film Review)

Edgar Wright is basically a nerd God of filmmaking. Not much debate about that, right? Taking traditional genre movies and orchestrating them with the kind of skill worthy of the so-called academy elite but without the acclaim of awards following it up. Whether deconstructing genres with his cornetto trilogy, or bringing a comic book to life in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Wright has shown his talents time and time again with the kind of devastating consistency few other filmmakers have managed. Having spent a decade developing Ant-Man, with Joe Cornish, Wright left the project as he couldn’t compromise with Marvel’s producer driven approach to the filmmaking process. Baby Driver, being Wright’s first released feature in four years, feels like an explosion of creativity from a director who has been restrained from doing what he loves most.

Following such a stifling period it’s great to see Wright back on the proverbial pedestal with an action/comedy/heist/sort of musical about a young getaway driver named Baby who is trying to leave his criminal life behind, with some difficulty. Cue a magnitude of wonderfully eclectic action set pieces shot with the virtuoso skill that Wright has made a trademark of his movies. Whether it be a high-octane car chase, two young lovers listening to music in a laundromat or Baby walking down the street to get coffee everything feels eventful and wonderfully vibrant. Seriously, Ansel Elgort ordering four coffees and retrieving them for his fellow cronies is far more engaging and inventive than some other films I’ve witnessed this summer. Ansel Elgort is our young protagonist, the charming music obsessed getaway driver, with a smile so irritatingly cutesy that makes you just want to punch him in his perfect face (Perhaps more a reflection on me than Elgort). Elgort’s chemistry with Lily James is instantaneously obvious. Their conversations swift, sensitive and filled with humour and heart. The ensemble is a mix of great talents. Spacey provides the gravitas and authority as the man who won’t let Baby escape his driving exploits, Jon Hamm and Eisa Gonzalez as a pair of Spacey’s favourite go to bank robbers and an explosive Jamie Foxx as the hot-headed Bats. For all the acting greats on display it is Wright who stands front and centre, keeping the action fast and fluent. Choreographed like a musical, all the action is phenomenally intricate and plays out with a rhythmic glee that keeps the heart pumping thoroughly throughout. In the final act the tightly woven narrative begins to unravel slightly with a few questionable character choices that seem out of….erm… character? And it’s definitely not as funny a movie as any of the cornetto trilogy but it speaks to Wright’s talent that this movie, which is basically just Wright blowing off some steam following a difficult spell with Ant-Man, is easily one of the best films of the year.

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In a summer filled with sequels, reboots and spin-offs it’s important to champion the original content, especially when it’s this good. Inspired by seminal car based action classics, such as Walter Hill’s The Driver, Edgar Wright has made the car chase movie of the year (Soz Vin Diesel), with a moderately cheap budget. So get down to your local cinema and check it out.

4/5

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“Here’s to the ones who Dream” – La La Land (Film Review)

Following its triumphant run in the U.S, and a rapturous night of success at the Golden Globes, La La Land finally opened here in the UK last week. When a film gets as much fanfare as this one has received it’s difficult to contain your expectations accordingly, but try as I might it’s been hard to contain my excitement following the embarrassingly large number of awards that have been cascaded towards the film’s feet. Not to mention that ultra-talented director Damien Chazelle, along with leading pair Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, have quite the pedigree between them to warrant a stirring sense of anticipation.

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone), attempting to negotiate the harsh realities of breaking into the film business, continually finds herself bumping into jazz enthusiast Seb (Ryan Gosling) who dreams of opening his own club. Despite an acrimonious beginning a relationship begins to blossom between them set to the backdrop of the beautiful L.A skyline.

La La Land is a gorgeous movie, that captures an evocative, dreamlike feel of the city of Los Angeles. Chazelle’s camera is swift, yet definite, with the musical sequences captured in long, expertly staged, takes filmed in Cinemascope which was at its height in the 1950’s, an era La La Land repeatedly nods it head towards. The choreography is inventive and fluid, slick when it needs to be and graceful when it has to be. All the while cinematographer Linus Sandgren manages to fill the screen with an effervescent, dreamy, array of colours. He captures both the mundane world the characters attempt to rail against and the pure romanticism of the city of which they dream. This is displayed best in a terrific dance sequence between Gosling and Stone on a lowly hill top overlooking the L.A skyline. Filmed at “Magic Hour” where the setting sun and neon lights combine to make a dazzlingly surreal landscape that description can barely surmise. Chazelle has made a musical that feels both modern and nostalgic, mixing smartphones and vintage fashion styles, fusing classic Jazz with the new wave, and the dreams of aspiring artists with the crushing weight of reality. Stone is phenomenal, perfectly cast, managing to display charm, wit and an authentic passion that makes you yearn to believe in the magic of movies. Mia is a character fuelled by classic Hollywood trying to maintain her dreams in a world where an audition can come to an end in seconds, where you may spend your entire life auditioning for a part that will never come. Whilst Gosling also delivers yet another terrific performance as Seb, a fellow dreamer, with a rougher edge, who is revitalised by his meeting with Mia. Gosling and Stone have portrayed a couple on screen twice before in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad so it is no surprise that their chemistry is spot on. Both are rightly receiving plaudits for their performances, and Stone is a favourite to win an Oscar next month. There is a small role for J.K Simmons in the movie however he only has about fifteen lines, which are swiftly delivered, but is thoroughly brilliant in what is little more than a cameo. The music is instantly catchy, filled with flair and buoyancy by Justin Hurwitz, another Oscar favourite, in his third collaboration with close friend Chazelle.

La La Land is a wonderful journey exploring the passion of those who chase their dreams, and the hardships that they face in trying to achieve them. Mia often mentions Casablanca, one of the oft quoted classic love stories, and though we must wait decades to see if La La Land will become a classic of cinematic history in the same way I’m confident that I will always remember where I was when I fell in love with Mia, Seb and the ones who dream.

5/5

Dir: Damien Chazelle

Scr: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K Simmons, John Legend

Prd: Fred Burger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt

DOP: Linus Sandgren

Music: Justin Hurwitz

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Runtime: 128 Minutes

La La Land is out now in UK cinemas.