Written by Shawn Eastridge
I can safely say I’ve never seen anything like Edgar Wright’s latest exuberant effort Baby Driver. Sure, you can pick out its influences, as with any of Wright's other films, (in this case, Walter Hill, William Friedkin, George Miller, etc.) but Wright meshes and melds genres with his own unique sensibilities, spawning a final product both familiar and unmistakably distinctive. Its action sequences will wow you. Its soundtrack will delight you. Its performances will draw you in and hold you close while some of the most insane car stunts you’ve ever seen unfold before your very eyes. It’s pure entertainment from start to finish.
The soundtrack is a key character in Baby Driver, not unlike films such as American Graffiti (another cinematic effort with cars at its center). Wright has designed Baby Driver to function as a musical of sorts in addition to a comedic crime thriller. You see, our main protagonist Baby, played with charm and finesse by Ansel Elgort, has a unique condition. He has a perpetual ringing in his ears, the result of a car accident that took the lives of his angelic mother and abusive father. He drowns out the constant hum with his music, which also spurs on his expert driving abilities.
It’s a spectacular concept, one that Wright executes flawlessly. Few movies can get away with wall-to-wall music, but the song choices are so on-point and so well integrated, it might just be one of the finest examples of how to pull it off. Wright takes the concept a step further by having action sequences play out in rhythm to whatever song is playing on Baby’s iPod. It’s a brilliant, energizing touch.
Baby Driver’s heart comes from Baby’s relationship with waitress Debora (another enchanting turn from Lily James). Their romance isn’t particularly complex or even all that original, but the strong performances make it work. Watching them bond through their mutual love of music, making song recommendations to one another, might not be ‘thrilling’ in the same way the film’s car chases are, but these scenes do provide their own special brand of excitement.
Elgort and Allen might lead the pack, but man oh man, this is one of the best supporting casts I’ve ever seen. You’ve got two, count ‘em, TWO Jon’s: Bernthal and Hamm. Jamie Foxx giving a terrifying performance as a vicious crew member. Eliza Gonzalez as a fierce, machine-gun toting badass. And topping it all off is Kevin Spacey as the team’s leader. They delight in reciting Wright’s magnificent dialogue and their banter is frequently hysterical.
The screenplay is tight, trimmed to its bare minimum. Not a single scene is out of place or unnecessary. Everything enriches the story and characters. You could call it simplistic, sure, but you’d be undermining just how much of an accomplishment it really is. And when it comes down to it the plot details are just the foundation for Write’s creative instincts to flourish, providing just enough to keep the exhilarating action moving forward.
(As a miscellaneous sidenote, I have to mention how much of a kick it is to see the city of Atlanta used so prominently in the film. My wife and I just moved here and Baby Driver has given us a major sense of pride in our new hometown.)
If you’re a fan of Wright’s work, you do not want to miss this, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing one of Wright’s films, Baby Driver is the perfect introduction to one of this generation’s greatest filmmakers. Don’t miss it.
FINAL RATING: 4/5