It’s a heist film! It’s a romance! It’s a musical! It’s Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver! When films have genre identity issues its usually never a good sign. Nothing is more infuriating when you watch a movie that can’t ever decide what tone or direction it wants to take. Baby Driver is full of sub genres, but it knows exactly what it wants to be. It is everything you want your summer action flick. It has thrilling car chases, a plucky romance, dastardly criminals and a lot of gun violence. Yet there is also a story here. Wright has crafted Baby Driver with immense care and shows not every summer film has to be a sequel or remake. It is a truly exhilarating film full of non-stop fun, and arguably among the best of the year thus far.
Right away we learn what we’re in for with the character of Baby, played The Fault In Our Stars’s Ansel Elgort. Baby is partially deaf, music fanatic and a helluva driver. Baby wears headphones and plays music during jobs to drown out his Tinnitus he acquired after a childhood car accident. Baby is a man of few words who you may find a little creepy if you met him in real life. Wright does a terrific job setting up a backstory for baby without spoon feeding us exposition about his past. Rather, we learn slowly, and his past is revealed when it needs to be.
That approach to character development helps Baby Driver keep up its zippy pace. There isn’t an once of fat on this movie and really that is a Edgar Wright staple. He’s a down to business filmmaker and theres no room for long set ups in his films. Due to his aforementioned past, Baby is essentially thrown into a criminal world to repay a debt to Doc (a brilliant Kevin Spacey). The film opens with a stunning car chase where Baby drifts and weaves around Atlanta hauling a heist crew around.
The crews that work for Doc have wonderfully written code names that in turn fit that characters personality. Theres Buddy (Jon Hamm) and his wife Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) the approachable, yet badass, couple who seem to be the only ones who never really question Baby’s affinity for music. Hamm and Gonzalez are terrific and dare I say this is some of Hamm’s best on screen work since Mad Men. Then there’s Jamie Foxx who plays the sly and unpredictable Bats. Foxx is perfect in this film and is a delight to watch. And Ansel Elgort is also terrific. For a timid character, we can see the expression played out in his eyes. Elgort crushes this role and makes me want to see him do more. I’m always impressed by actors who can give us a window into their personality without using dialogue to express it.
Then there’s the girl. It’s always a girl that dooms our hero. That girl is Debora (Lily James). Debora works at a small diner and meets baby one day and the two immediately hit it off over their love of music. If there is any undoing in Edgar Wright’s feverish pace it’s that the romance is thrown into the fray without fairly unceremoniously. In its brisk run time, Wright chooses to focus more on the undeniable chemistry between Baby and Debora. In part, that is what makes the rushed set up passable.
Wright’s use of music in the film isn’t random which is refreshing. Every song has a purpose and it boasts the years best soundtrack. Mr. Wright has always seemed to prefer style over substance but in Baby Driver in order to not feel like it is just a rehash of other car chase films, Wright’s style is necessary. Baby Driver is a thriller that feels like it wasn’t made by the Hollywood machine but rather hand spun by a skilled worker who cares about his art. Wright’s technique is unparalleled in the way he uses cinematography, bright colors and some really cool uninterrupted takes that give this film a sort of musical feel, even though it isn’t really one.
Although Baby Driver isn’t by definition the shiny new model that reinvents the wheel, it is a well-cared for machine that never lets off the gas. It sometimes embraces the tropes that come with any car chase or heist thriller but always manages to reel us in with its wonderful characters. I am not as big a fan of Wright’s filmography as most are, but this guy has a true stamp of originality on his belt. Baby Driver is some of the most fun you’ll have in a theater this summer.