Baby Driver has already become one of the year’s most successful and critically acclaimed movies. But what makes leading Director Edgar Wright’s latest release an even bigger box-office hit than his previous creations? As we’re about to discover, the answer lies in the way he sets his trademark stylised storytelling to a painstakingly chosen soundtrack.
Baby Driver isn’t the first example of Edgar Wright uniquely blending sound and vision. In his 2004 Rom-Zom-Com Shaun of the Dead, the protagonists violently attack zombies with pool cues to the beat of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ – and this year, he’s taken this musically immersive method to new heights, by moulding an entire screenplay around it. The inspiration for Baby Driver came as far back as 1995, when one listen to ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion sparked his imagination. The classic blues-rock track implanted in Wright’s mind the idea of a fully loaded car chase – a car chase that would eventually become the film’s opening scene. Only, ‘Bellbottoms’ wasn’t just a soundtrack, it was part of the story – which is fundamentally what sets Baby Driver apart.
So how did the rest of the film take shape following one simple eureka moment? Wright collected more and more songs together, to create what would eventually become the driving force behind the entire screenplay – from a gunfight scene set to ‘Tequila’ by Button Down Brass, to explosive action following the rhythm of ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus. Wright could have left it there – he could have come up with an energetic movie led by an eclectic soundtrack of soul, blues, jazz, glam-rock and punk. But he upped the ante – he brought the characters in on his plan too. Even protagonist Baby was named in homage to the common lyrical filler that transcends eras and genres. As a result of a traumatic childhood experience, Baby suffers from tinnitus – and the incurable ringing in his ears leads him to become almost obsessed with living his life through music. When he’s not using it as a backing track to his daily routine, he’s mixing his own using recordings and samples.
Baby is just as obsessed with dancing to his own beat as Wright has been for the past two decades. In one scene, Baby and the mob are forced to disembark their getaway car mid-heist and find a new one. Baby is so focused on perfect timing, he has to rewind a song mid-play, so it starts up again at the perfect moment when the plan resumes. Surprisingly, this scene was born from a timing error on Wright’s part – the song he chose was too short for that particular scene, and he added in this clever detail to ensure it could still be used.
Wright claimed that he wanted to write and direct a movie using songs no other film has used before in the same way, or at all. And it looks like he succeeded. Critically and commercially acclaimed, the thriller has earned rave reviews – and earned almost $50 million at the box office since its release on June 21st. The music undoubtedly played a huge part in this success – and when you set your brand to sound too, you’ll discover similarly impressive results.