For those who are unaware, ‘style over substance’ is a term used for arguments that are delivered in a compelling way, such that you overlook the actual integrity of what is being argued. For example, a person makes a claim, the claim sounds catchy, therefore the claim is true. When applied to a film, style over substance usually concerns the visuals of the film – its direction, colour palette etc and claims that they are of a higher standard than the story itself. This is a term that is thrown around often to filmmakers such as Zack Snyder (well I say filmmaker) as well as Edgar Wright, most notably ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’. But does Edgar Wright’s new entry, Baby Driver, fall into that same category?
No, it doesn’t. Baby Driver has undeniable style to it as seen in the opening sequence, where Baby (Ansel Elgort) is interacting with the world around him using the rhythm of his music to dominate his movement – and it is all displayed in one gorgeous long shot. With the surrounding area almost contributing to the song that Baby is listening to, the scene is certainly very stylistic. But, it has substance too. In this scene, we learn about the core of Baby’s character: he is at his happiest when he is at one with his music. This may seem like a very futile character trait but it does become an integral driving force to the film throughout. A common struggle for filmmakers is trying to convey vital information to the audience in an interesting way. This exposition is usually given by one character asking a very unnatural, teasing question and another character delivering a very rehearsed, unnatural response. This is usually overlooked as a necessary evil for film goers and critics alike to ignore, but in my opinion, it’s just lazy filmmaking.
Edgar Wright has chosen to make this scene something that is visually aesthetic and audibly intriguing. The exposition is so secondary to the scene that you don’t even notice that it has been given to you and that is the beauty of Edgar Wright’s style – the substance is a natural part of it.
The rest of the film is also brilliant. With actors like, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm lending their comedic and action prowess to the film, it leads to some entertaining action scenes. The pit boss is played by Kevin Spacey and has some of the funniest lines in the film that really showcase Edgar Wright’s love of cinema. The stand out performance is Ansel Elgort, who probably has about 50 words in the film, but his character is suave and becomes instantly likeable.
Where the film could have failed, is the romance between Lily James’, Debora, and Baby. However, although a rushed love affair, the pair make a good couple and you are rooting for them by the end. This is mostly down to the good morals of the characters and the endearing dynamic between them. All in all, Baby Driver is a thoroughly enjoyable film and is tussling Logan for my favourite of 2017. Had it not been for Hot Fuzz, I would also probably be saying that it’s Edgar Wright’s best work. It’s out now, and I would definitely recommend going to see it.