In the mind of every director, there’s a movie they’ve always wanted to make. More often than not, these films don’t come to fruition. Maybe there are budget constraints, or the technology of the time isn’t up to scratch. Or maybe, they’re just a ludicrous pipe dream. On the rare occasion when the stars align to bring the film to life, and that ludicrous pipe dream dwells in the genius mind of Edgar Wright, you get something like Baby Driver. Thank the heavens for whatever magic brought this movie to the screen.
On paper, the story of Baby, a talented getaway driver who uses music to drown out his constant tinnitus doesn’t sound like much. And in the hands of anyone else, I don’t think it would be. What Wright (of Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim fame) has crafted here is something else entirely. It’s a movie that accompanies a soundtrack, as opposed to the other way around. But let me back up a bit first.
The titular Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a quiet twenty-something with a bit of a shady past, never seen without his headphones or his sunglasses. This shady past saw him cross paths with crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), who enlists Baby as his permanent getaway driver for all the bank heists he puts together. As Doc never uses the same crew twice (with Baby as the exception), we’re introduced to a variety of dodgy crooks and thugs. The rotating supporting cast of hardened criminals includes the likes of Bats (Jamie Foxx), Griff (Jon Bernthal), and lovebird duo Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez).
Despite the successes of the heists, when Baby meets diner waitress Debora (Lily James), his long term plans take a drastic shift. While Baby and Debora bond over music, Baby helps Doc plan one last heist before he can hit the road with Debora in tow. But, of course, it’s never that easy.
In his role as Baby, Ansel Elgort has officially become a star. Playing a quiet character who is thrifty with their words is challenging, but Elgort uses his expressive eyes as a window into Baby’s soul. Unobtrusive as Baby may be, his wild, untamed delight is captured beautifully through Elgort’s heart-on-sleeve approach. From the opening car chase scene to the closing of the film, Elgort hits every note perfectly.
As for the supporting cast, special mention must be given to Kevin Spacey’s scenery-chewing role as Doc. Part mentor, part boss and all criminal mastermind, Spacey is a delight to watch on screen. He toes the line of going over the top, sometimes even dancing forwards and backwards over it, but keeps it, for the most part, believable. The rest of the motley crew go for broke as well. Jaime Foxx pulls out all the stops as the psychotic Bats, and Jon Hamm plays the quietly menacing Buddy to perfection.
I think the only gripe I have with Baby Driver was the female supporting cast. There were only two female characters of note, and both were slightly too much on the two-dimensional side for my liking. That isn’t to say that Lily James and Eiza Gonzalez didn’t do an excellent job with what they were given. James especially, as the naturally sweet Debora, suffuses her role with adorable charm and a smile like a ray of sunshine.
However, the real star of Baby Driver is undoubtedly Edgar Wright. From the very first getaway scene (set to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) you can tell you’re going to be in for one heck of a ride. Wright choreographs with meticulous care, alongside cinematographer Bill Pope. The stunts are mostly done in camera, putting you in the middle of all the action. It’s no hyperbole to say I was on the edge of my seat for every car chase sequence.
Wright’s attention to detail is astonishing, both in the high-octane action sequences and out. The title sequence alone had me grinning with the visual cues that went with the music, and the movie just gets better from there. Flashbacks are woven through the story with particular care, while there is a delight to be found in every one of the present day scenes. There is so much of Wright in this film, fans of his work will notice the nods to pop culture and his ever-present visual wit.
Tying everything together is the eclectic playlist that Wright compiled. The music is everywhere in Baby Driver, in practically every scene. The action choreography takes its cues from the heist music Baby chooses. The songs speak for Baby when he can’t, or won’t, say anything out loud. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a movie’s soundtrack as much, or if push came to shove, seen it as this particularly important. With Baby Driver though, it’s the very soul of the film.
You couldn’t have this sort of movie without that soundtrack. Nor, I suspect, could you have it without Edgar Wright and the talented cast he assembled. Wright’s movies have always deserved more success than they’ve received, but I think he’s finally cracked it with Baby Driver. It’s is a thrill ride from start to finish. From the moment Baby Driver kicks off, you will be grinning and gasping and loving every second of it. There is a special kind of magic at play here, one woven from the marriage of music and film. I guarantee you’ve never seen – nor heard – a movie like this before.
Last Updated: July 24, 2017