Baby Driver, the latest film from writer and director Edgar Wright, is out this week, and is already getting rave reviews with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 86 rating on metacritic, which is the 11th highest score of 2017. In a summer season that is fairly light on high quality films, Baby Driver has a major chance to stand out if the reviews and quality word of mouth can convince people to pass on the dumpster fire masquerading as a film that is Transformers: The Last Knight.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Edgar Write, there is good news. This is you opportunity to indulge in some of his previous works, especially the Cornetto Trilogy that he made with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The trilogy is made up of three of the best comedy films released this century; Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013).
Each film stars Pegg and Frost as well as a number of recurring actors in smaller roles such as Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. As mentioned earlier, these films are three of the highest quality comedies released in the past 17 years, and they do things very differently from popular American comedies made in the same time period. Other than the traditional differences between American and British comedies, the two factors that allow Wright’s films to stand out even more are his ability to create comedic moments with the camera, and the extensive use of foreshadowing within each film.
The Power of the Camera: What is out of frame is just as important as what is in it
One of strongest attributes within Wright’s comedies are his ability to use the movement of the camera, the boarder of the frame and the appropriate shot editing to make each shot within each scene distinct and purposeful.
Comedy is more than just funny dialogue and people falling over. Humor can come from a variety of sources, with the camera functioning as an underutilized tool in most comedies. Wright, however, does not make that mistake and makes extensive use of the camera. Movement of the camera, of characters within frame, and of characters into and out of frame can all contribute to humor with a film that dialogue alone cannot accomplish.
Take this scene from Hot Fuzz as an example. Within it, Wright constantly subverts our expectations of how we expect the scene to not only play out, but even how the characters enter the scene.
This is just a single example of how Wright makes use of the camera to keep the audience on their toes, and to deliver entertainment in a way that is not seen as often in modern comedies. Each of the three films excels in providing different examples of visual comedy utilizing the frame and camera movement. It is a level of attention to detail that helps put these films over their peers in terms of quality.
For more info on Wright’s use of visual comedy, check out this video here.
Foreshadowing: The plot of the entire film can be figured out by those paying attention
The amount of foreshadowing within these films is staggering. After watching the films for the first time, this won’t be quite as apparent except to those who have sharp memories. However, any repeat viewings will reveal just how much of the film is hinted at, in one way or another. The most obvious example, lies in the opening credits of Shaun of the Dead.
Almost every individual shown in this opening credits sequence will become a zombie. Or should I say that they will become more of a zombie, as their daily lives have already zombie-fied them to a certain extent.
The best example however, of foreshadowing within these films comes from the third installment, The World’s End. The opening scene of the film reveals exactly what will happen to each character as they take another shot at the golden mile. Further, remember the names of the pubs, as each one is a clue as to what will happen within each of them as they come up. Finally, while it is not in this clip, when watching the film, make a mental note of the colors that the characters wear to get another clue as to the fates of each of them.
There are smaller examples of foreshadowing than these littered throughout each of the three films. Small lines of dialogue, repeated dialogue, and repeated character actions will all add to the vast amounts of foreshadowing which increase the value for attentive viewers and repeat viewings of the films.
While these are two of the most stand out factors of the films, they are not the only aspects through which they derive their quality. Ultimately these films are among the best comedies of this century simply because all of the pieces are extremely well done. There are characters that the audience cares about, there is smart and clever dialogue, the films are all paced extremely well and they have satisfying conclusions. Each of the three films also has its own share of strengths and weaknesses too.
Shaun of the Dead is the first of the three, and as such it set the standard for the other two to live up to. It has many of the best examples of the visual gags and camera manipulation in order to create humor. While the two main characters are strong and compelling, much of the rest of the cast feel a little weaker, and overall it has the weakest characters of the three films outside the core cast.
Hot Fuzz is my personal favorite, as I think it is the funniest of the three films. It is a spoof of the buddy cop movies featuring a hard-boiled policeman, oh excuse me, police officer, trying to uncover a secret plot, and it delivers on playing off of those tropes beautifully. It also has the funniest supporting cast, though many of those characters are pretty one note and don’t grow as much as they should. The ending is still extremely fun, if a little bit predictable.
The final film, The World’s End is the least outright funny of the three, but it has the most complex and rewarding characters. Each of the characters feels more mature and fleshed out in a way that the previous two films could not quite accomplish. Though I originally thought of it as a distant third upon the initial viewing, I have grown to appreciate it, its characters and its message more upon repeat viewings. It also comes with the most rewarding conclusion that is well earned.
You cannot go wrong with any of these films. They belong in the collection of anyone who enjoys comedies, and they are a must watch for anyone who has been missing out on them for all these years. They are able to deliver entertainment and humor in ways that many modern comedies overlook, and are examples of what a smart and clever filmmaker can accomplish if they have the proper dedication to creating a comedy film using all of the tools at their disposal.