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‘Drive’ vs. ‘Baby Driver’: How Both Films Manage To Reveal Everything About Their Auteurs

Where to Stream

Drive

About halfway through Baby Driver — well after the explosive, music-fueled opening chase scene, past the cutesy flirtations in a diner, and in the middle of a dangerous heist gone bad — I thought to myself, “Huh, this movie reminds me a lot of Drive.”

I immediately felt foolish for thinking this. After all, what could be more reductive than to compare two dazzlingly well shot films about taciturn getaway drivers who risk it all for the dream of love? It was an easy comparison, but it was one that stuck with me far after the credits rolled. I kept thinking that everything I loved about Baby Driver was exactly what I had loved about Drive. Both films are technical masterpieces. The cinematography, editing, and sound design puts you in the middle of the lead characters’ psyche during both the adrenaline-fueled chase scenes and the quieter moments of swoon-inducing romance. The soundtracks to both are essentially super-hip mixtapes and each song sticks with you long after the film is over. Even the casts of both Drive and Baby Driver share the same basic DNA. Both are led by baby-faced leading men hitherto best known for teen tear-jerkers (The Notebook’s Ryan Gosling vs. The Fault In Our StarsAnsel Elgort). The love interests are bottle blonde British actresses stuck with accents and to waitress uniforms (Carey Mulligan vs. Lily James) and the supporting cast includes Mad Men alum trying to go bad (Christina Hendricks vs. Jon Hamm) and up-and-coming Hispanic stars carving stellar breakout performances out of slight material (Oscar Isaac vs. Eiza Gonzalez).

Drive and Baby Driver even have the same flaws. I’m not trying to jump on the Baby Driver hate” bandwagon — because it really is an utterly fantastic film — but when you examine the weight of the narrative and the depth of the characters, you do come up a tad bit wanting. The same is true of Drive. For both films, the style is the substance and that’s why I’m fascinated by the similarities between Drive and Baby Driver because it is the differences between them that reveal everything you need to know about their auteurs.

Drive came out of the mind of German auteur Nicholas Winding Refn and Baby Driver is the passion project of British cult comedy mastermind Edgar Wright. Refn has often been criticized for his nihilistic view of the world. He leans heavily on a bleak sort of “ultra violence.” He doesn’t want to spare his audience any horror. In fact, he wants to push us into it. Wright, on the other hand, cut his teeth on the exuberant British sitcom Spaced. Over the years — with his “Cornetto Trilogy” and adaptation of Scott Pilgrim – Wright has established himself as a “fanboy’s fanboy.” His tightly constructed films are chock full of pop culture references and odes to genre touchstones. He loves movies and his movies love movies.

So I love that these seemingly disparate auteurs gave us eerily similar films. Because you can really look at their artistic point of view side-by-side. You can see how their worldviews differ. The big leap comes in the endings of both films. SPOILER ALERT TIME. In Drive, the Driver (Gosling) manages to just barely escape with the money. Refn gives us a tense moment where it’s unclear if our hero lives or dies. But then, he comes back to life and drives off, leaving the money and his love, Irene (Mulligan), behind. The closing shots are him driving once more in the night, possibly restarting a cycle of misanthropy and violence. It’s about as happy an ending as a director like Refn could probably summon.

Baby Driver‘s ending reveals Wright’s inherent romanticism. That isn’t to say that Edgar Wright is all about candy hearts and sunsets. He’s just a guy who sees love as humanity’s redeeming quality. You see this throughout his oeuvre. His characters love comic books or they love movies or they love their best friends or they love unattainable beauties. They all just love.

Game of Thrones

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Baby Driver is a film that ends with the lovers getting away. For a moment it seems that after all the tumult and all the tension, they’re going to either ride out into the sunset or go out in a blaze of glory, Thelma & Louise style. Baby (Elgort) and Debora (James) are halted by a caravan of cop cars, blocking them on a bridge. Baby decides to surrender himself to save her. What follows is a montage of characters speaking up for Baby. We see him keep his head down in prison until he’s released on parole and reunited with Debora. His happy ending goes beyond survival;He finally gets to be with his lover and to enjoy the freedom of the open road. (But his happy ending also comes after he conforms to society’s values which is interesting when you consider that Refn’s character always exists outside society’s neat and tidy lanes.)

Comparing Drive and Baby Driver doesn’t ruin either film. These movies don’t grow smaller in the comparison. The depths of their directors’ respective artistry just becomes more apparent. The films are so similar that they allow us a framework to truly hear Refn’s and Wright’s voices. Refn is all about sound and fury, and Wright is all about love.

Baby Driver is in theaters now. 

Where to Stream Drive

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