Release Date(s)2017 (October 10, 2017)
Studio(s)MRC/Working Title/Big Talk/TriStar (Sony Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a good kid. He loves his music, keeps his attitude upbeat, and takes care of his elderly, wheelchair-bound guardian. He’s also a really good driver. There’s just one hitch: Most of the driving Baby does is for Atlanta, GA’s leading criminal mastermind, Doc (Kevin Spacey), and it involves armed robbery and fast, clean getaways from the same. Baby’s unusual for another reason too: He’s always listening to music, even while on the job. That doesn’t mean he ever misses a detail, but it does lead to some occupational conflict with his co-workers, a rogue’s gallery of gun-slinging criminals that include Buddy, Darling, Griff, Bats, No-Nose, and JD (played by Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Flea, and Lanny Joon, respectively). Fortunately, though, Baby’s life is looking up. He’s almost paid back the debt he owes Doc and he’s just met a nice girl, Debora (Lily James), who not only understands him but might want to share a future with him. All he has to do is survive a few more jobs to make it happen.
There is something very satisfying about watching an interesting filmmaker elevate their work to the next level. That’s exactly what Edgar Wright has done here, in much the same way as he did with Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World before this. Baby Driver is a little bit of genus from start to finish. When you see this film, it’s immediately clear that Wright has been making it in his head for years; something this creative doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Some critics have called Baby Driver derivative and, sure, there have been many heist films, many shoot-em-ups, many car chases before this. But no film that I can think of has taken quite this same approach to the material. This film has a touch of whimsy about it, a touch of theatrical/musical flare. But it’s not simply an extended music video. Though its soundtrack is outstanding, music does not drive this film. Baby does. But Baby sees his world through music… and we see the film through his eyes. So it’s only natural that everything happens to the beat of his own choosing, called up bespoke for the purpose on one of his many iPods. Baby Driver is smart for its editing and its casting as well, which surrounds relatively unknown talent (in Elgort and James) with a terrific group of experienced character actors, some leading men in their own right. Nearly everything aspect of Baby Driver works beautifully… and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Baby Driver was shot almost entirely on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras and anamorphic lenses, with a little bit of digital photography employed for night shooting in the parking structure sequences (when proper lighting wasn’t practical) using ARRI Alexa cameras via the ARRIRAW codec (2.8K). The film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. This was upsampled and given an HDR10 color grade for its release on 4K Ultra HD. Colors are bright and accurate. Contrast is solid, with deep blacks and shinning highlights. Both color and contrast are enhanced by the High Dynamic Range, which makes things look richer and more luminous. In terms of resolution, texturing here is nicely film-like and refined, but the image doesn’t have the same fine crisp detail as you might see from a native 4K master. The film-sourced capture and 2K DI give the resulting image a softness that is pleasing in its own way, but keep the Ultra HD image from reaching reference quality levels.
The audio mix, on the other hand, is absolutely tremendous. Primary audio on this Ultra HD is provided in English Dolby Atmos, which is 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible. The Atmos presentation simply dazzles and is a major improvement over the Blu-ray mix. The soundstage is huge and completely immersive, with great clarity and low-end support. Music obviously plays a big part in Baby Driver, and every last track sounds fantastic here, carefully blended into the film’s scenic sound environments beautifully. The surround effects positioning and precision is a delight, with smooth movement, and nearly constant use of the overhead channels in action scenes and even quiet ones for subtle ambience. This is an outstanding Atmos experience. Additional audio mixes include English Descriptive Audio, German, Parisian French, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and Quebec French, Czech, Hungarian, Spanish, and Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles available in English, English SDH, Arabic, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Brazilian Portuguese, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.
Sony’s Ultra HD package includes no extras on the actual 4K disc, but does include the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray too. That disc adds:
- Audio Commentary with director Edgar Wright
- Audio Commentary with director Edgar Wright and cinematographer Bill Pope
It also offers the following video-based features, all in HD:
- Extended & Deleted Scenes (11 scenes – 20:28 in all)
- That’s My Baby: Edgar Wright (9:18)
- Mozart in a Go-Kart: Ansel Drives (5:52)
- I Need a Killer Track: The Music (6:14)
- Meet Your New Crew: Doc’s Gang (10:55)
- Find Something Funky on There: The Choreography (6:08)
- Devil Behind the Wheel: The Car Chases (6:46)
- Selected Scene Animatics (8 animatics – 35:42 in all)
- Rehearsals & Pre-Production (3 segments – 17:03 in all)
- Mint Royale – “Blue Song” Music Video (4:15)
- Complete Storyboard Gallery (in 4 parts, each a massive slideshow)
- Promos and More (18 spots – 21:10 in all)
The important thing to note here is that this is a fine batch of bonus material. Really, this is one of the most enjoyable packages of extras to be put on new-release feature film Blu-ray by a major Hollywood studio in recent memory; it’s all really good content, featuring Wright and the entire cast and crew, that offers a detailed look at everything you might be interested in with regard to the making of this film. Naturally, you also get a Digital code on a paper insert.
Baby Driver is just a damn great film and a real surprise at that. Director Edgar Wright – really everyone involved – brought the A-game to deliver a seriously fun and cinematic viewing experience. This is one of the best films of 2017 so far and a highly recommended 4K Ultra HD release.
- Bill Hunt