Baby Driver: An Exercise in Primary Colors

This weekend Edgar Wright unleashes a fury of sights and sounds that he’s been cooking for over 20 years now called Baby Driver. Way, way back in 2003 Edgar Wright directed a music video for Mint Royale’s single Blue Song, which featured The Mighty Boosh‘s Noel Fielding as a getaway driver rocking out to the beat of the song as Nick Frost, Julian Barrett, and Michael Smiley rob a bank. Watch that video:

The video is based on an idea Wright had for a feature length film in which songs drive the action of each scene, exemplified here with every car door slam and camera move synced to the music. And now, in 2017, after making four other features, he’s finally completed and released his passion project, and it’s the best action movie you’ll see this summer.

You’ll read lots of articles this week about the sound of Baby Driver – and with good reason. If you can imagine that music video continuing for two more hours, you’re accurately imagining Baby Driver. It’s an astounding accomplishment, and an utter joy to watch. I was bopping my head along to the beat of the movie like I was at the best rock concert since the summer of ’69. But what ultimately struck me most about the film was not its incredible use of music and editing – instead, it was the color palette Wright chose to emphasize the thematics of Baby’s story.

Baby Driver is a simple and straightforward film about a getaway driver in over his head with some very bad people, and he needs out. Wright matches that efficiency of story in his color choices. The film has a fairly strict palette of primary colors, those being yellow, blue, and red, and I’d like to posit that their relevance to the story is just as simple and straightforward.

YELLOW for the freedom of the road ahead.
BLUE & RED for the life you desperately want to leave behind but always threatens to catch up with you.

Or stated even more simply – YELLOW for hope, BLUE & RED for consequences.

Wright cleverly uses these colors to highlight various objects, characters, and confrontations of importance in Baby’s story, and they tend to fall in line with the thematic representation I laid out above more often than not. At this point I’d like to warn that there are very minor spoilers for Baby Driver that follow, though I’ve left most details very vague so that you can either read this and enjoy it with this idea in mind, or come back to it after seeing the movie and color inside the vague outline I’ve drawn.

How Edgar Wright uses the color red in Baby Driver
Click for full sized image!

Let’s start with BLUE & RED, an obvious nod to the police lights that are ever present in Baby’s rearview. But these colors are also prominent in nearly all of Baby’s bad dealings. When Baby is making his most daring escapes to pay off a debt to his boss, Doc, he’s ever encased in RED. Red cars, red driving gloves supplied by Doc, red elevator buttons that lead to Doc’s hideout – red is the color associated with the parts of Baby that are excited by his life of crime, his own exceptional skills, and the recognition they earn in Doc’s world.

How Edgar Wright uses the color blue in Baby Driver
Click for full size image!

But Baby isn’t really a criminal. He doesn’t just have a conscience, he has a heart that keeps him true. And unfortunately for Baby, his life of crime has a dark side that he will have to contend with. A dark side that is bathed in BLUE. The villains throughout the film are often dressed in black or blue, carrying blue accessories. When Doc is threatening Baby’s life, Doc is set against a background of various shades of blue lights. The car used for what will be Baby’s final job, the one he doesn’t want to take, is blue.

How Edgar Wright uses the color yellow in Baby Driver
Click for full size image!

This leaves us with YELLOW, which most obviously represents the lines on the middle of that free, open road that represent hope for Baby; lines that appear throughout the movie, and not necessarily always on the road. But there’s also the tape labeled “MOM”, Baby’s constant inspiration for forward motion. We have Baby’s love interest, Debora, in a gorgeous yellow dress, whom Baby can finally picture a future with. There’s also the bright yellow bands that are wrapped around the money Baby earns, the money that will hopefully help he and Debora start a life somewhere down that road.

How Edgar Wright uses colors blue, red, and yellow in Baby Driver
Click for full size image!

But the scenes that I’m perhaps most interested in are the ones in which these three colors come together and intersect. These all seem to occur at major junctions in Baby’s story, in moments where he has to make crucial choices. Like when he goes to the laundromat with Debora and decides he really does want a future with her. Or when Bats confronts Baby about a job gone very wrong. Or when Buddy finally puts the pieces together and catches up with Baby and Debora.

It’s interesting to note, and I think clear from the collages above, that BLUE & RED are much more prominently featured throughout the film than YELLOW. Whether this was a conscious decision on Wright’s part or not, it matches what I think is the overall theme of Baby Driver- consequences will always catch up with you, and you have to own your choices and deal with their repercussions to truly get what you want. You can only truly move forward once you’ve stopped running.

I’ve left these final details vague so that you can enjoy the movie yourself and draw your own conclusions about these scenes, the color choices Wright makes in them, and their thematic value, if any. Baby Driver is an exciting, fresh cinematic experience that demands to be seen and deserves to be the surprise hit of the summer. It’s my favorite movie of 2017 thus far, and I can’t wait to see it again this weekend. Bravo, Mr. Wright and co.

Author: Garrett Smith

Garrett is a writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia that spends too much time debating the difference between kinetic and frenetic filmmaking. He likes cheese, in both food and movies. Check him out on twitter and letterboxd and give his podcast, I Like To Movie Movie, a listen.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the clarity. I noticed that all of the machines in the laundroment were running red, yellow, and blue, but didn’t fully understand the significance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *