In a summer largely full of uninspiring and forgettable stories, filmmaker Edgar Wright has given audiences a much-needed jolt of energy with his satisfying adrenaline-filled music-laced heist caper, Baby Driver.
Far too often, audiences are let down by a steady stream of unoriginal movies that often over-promise and under deliver. From the opening scene of this film, it’s clear that Wright has other higher aspirations. Using music as a character, Wright immediately sets the tone for his story with a thrilling sequence as we are introduced to the title character, Baby (Ansel Elgort) surrounded by sounds of the Jon Spencer Explosion’s Bellbottoms.
With the police hot on his tale, Baby, with a crew of bank robbers in tow, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Monica (Eliza Gonzalez) and Griff (Jon Bernthal) expertly outmaneuvers the vastly overwhelmed law with superb driving skills that would make the Transporter jealous.
As the crew meets to settle up, we learn that not only is Baby an accomplished driver but he has a condition from an earlier accident that he uses music to quiet the sounds in his head. In debt to criminal mastermind, Doc, Baby is driving off his punishment one job at a time.
When he isn’t driving, Baby cares for his foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones) and creates a series of unorthodox mixtapes pulled from personal conversations. Poised to get out of the game, Baby’s fortunes change when he meets an earnest and attractive waitress, Debora (Lily James) who shares his musical tastes as well as a longing to put their past in the rearview mirror.
As our hero prepares for his final job, fate throws him a huge monkey wrench in the form of a new member of the crew, Bats (Jamie Foxx). Immediately, his presence cast a pall over the crew putting everyone on edge with his rampant unpredictability and trigger-happy ways. With the clock ticking, and with Baby and Debora planning their escape, will Bats, Buddy, and Darling prevent his best-laid plans?
Over the course of his career, Wright’s hallmark has been his unique and frenetic style that has earmarked much of his earlier work. In this film, Wright takes that style, places it in a ball and fires it at the audience like a water cannon. Elgort (The Fault In Our Stars) gets his most substantial role to date and clearly maximizes his opportunity. Elgort dazzles displaying a blend of vulnerability and skill, absolutely CRUSHES it . . .
And Elgort is not alone, Wright pulls some truly effective performances out of his star-studded cast. Shaking off some recent bad films, Foxx gives his best performance since Django Unchained as the crew’s ticking time bomb, Bats. Foxx goes from zero to a hundred literally from scene-to-scene, unsettling the crew and the audience who never know what they’ll get from the talented star. Both Hamm and Spacey also bring their A-game providing layers upon layers of nuance initially marveling at Baby’s skills only to see his virtues as liabilities as the story progresses.
Full of vitality, style, twists and turns behind the wheel, and most importantly a banging soundtrack, Baby Driver is purely and exhilarating surprise that no one saw coming. Even after producing and directing his famed Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) as well as other favorites including Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright showed that his imagination remains limitless. There is more style and swag in the opening sequence of this film than in most of the big blockbusters currently littering cineplexes this summer.
Tremendously engaging, riveting, earnest, at times terrifying laced with a head-bobbing soundtrack, Baby Driver feels like the type of story that drives a sledgehammer to most of what passes for most of cinema . . . which can only benefit audiences in the long-term who deserve the best film can give.