1st Draft Revisions – August 15th 2014
"Every scene in this film is driven by music." That's how this screenplay, by the writer/director of Spaced, Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End and Scott Pilgrim, begins. And then the music kicks in. You'll have to wait for the film to find out which ones though.
But from this point, the action is set amongst the chords and the stings, each spelled out for each movement.
INT./EXT. CAR/PARKING LOT – CONTINUOUS 3 The track kicks in. We see the car is a shiny red Honda Civic and note the door chimes are in time with the song. Choppy strings play against guitar riffs as GRIFF gets out. We see a shotgun partially concealed in his trench coat.
It's what actually makes this screenplay a lot longer than the movie's actual length would suggest. Usually a rule of thumb is a page of script equals a minute of screentime, but this is a 90 minute film that's over 120 pages in length. And a good third of it is talking about where the music beats lie alongside the action and dialogue. There are only minor moments when music isn't playing, in between tracks before the next one kicks off.
So we have Baby as a driver for criminal gangs, each time put together by Doc. There is something different about Baby, he doesn't fit in with the world around him – so he seems to make his own world with the music on on iPod. And then suddenly everything seems to fit together and make sense. Soon we begin to piece together fragments of his life. How he sees the world, why he sees it that way, the choices he made – and had forced upon him. He is a damaged man but has found his own way through.
So for all that, Baby hardly says a word. He drives, he orders coffee, he mouths to the music.
BUDDY: I figured out why you call him Baby. Still waiting for his first words.
Until he needs to and then he explodes like Silent Bob. He is a seemingly innocent, seemingly with mental issues, earphones constantly in, caught up in this world – but filtering it through his own personal perspective. He does all this while paying off his debt to Doc, who seems like he cares and values Baby – even if he keeps setting up these very dangerous jobs.
BATS: Is it the police?
BABY:It's not The Police.
But to care for anyone in Baby Driver is dangerous. It exposes a weak spot, makes you vulnerable, but in the end is the only thing worth it. Oh, and yes, it's funny. It's very funny. But those moments are deliberately sporadic, and often more from the gaps than the gags.
Some films have been criticised for being nothing more than a two-hour music video. I think this film would seek that comparison out. It has been written to the music, and I would expect that the rights to use the tracks were arranged a long time ago. Switching them out now would be a hell of a job.
But it really, really works. This may be the closest I've seen to Watchmen as a comic book, as a movie script. A thorough and detailed timing for every scene. It can only last so long – because that's how long the track is. The beats are. It has a prescribed tempo right from the outset. If the director was anyone other than the man who wrote this, it could be a real problem.
Drums kick in. Tempo shifts up. The lot gets busy. On every second beat we hear a loud vibraslap and each time Baby sizes up another car. Office workers slamming car doors and beeping keys in perfect sync with his music.
Sound is constantly the most important thing in this script, far more than visuals. The importance of sound, the way it frames the world and what happens when you take it away are intensely important for this film. Both the joy and the tragedy within.
And, yes, it is a proper, full blown action movie from the outset. No mundanity to set it up, it explodes right from the beginning. A robbery/heist/procedural movie with cool criminal cats, keystone cops and kick ass tracks. And yes, it does glamourise violence, and does so quite deliberately.
Over crates and car hoods, the fire fight between Bats and the three Farmers as the duelling drum solo intensifies, each burst of gunfire matched by a burst of drums.
But only because it contrasts with the later reality of consequence. It shows how Baby's world view can be an addictive, satisfying but a dangerous and false one.
The comparison with Reservoir Dogs will no doubt be made, but it feels as if memorable moments from that film, especially the way it synchronised music and action, fill the entire movie. This film could implant relatively less well-known songs directly onto the cultural consciousness again. Push certain acts back to the top of the charts. While also have people quoting excellent lines about tattoos and hats. Reservoir Dogs meets Scott Pilgrim? Why not.
And when the music stops – well that's when it all goes wrong. Silence is the deadliest sin.
One other thing to note. As I pointed out above, this screenplay I've just read is from 2014. Who knows how Edgar Wright has made it even better, tighter, clever, funnier, more poignant, more moving, more dazzling since?
Now if only he could find a director who might have some clue how to make this movie.
Baby Driver will be out this autumn from Sony. On the strength of this screenplay I will be first in line, but keeping my mouth shut, like Baby. But my feet tapping…