Baby Driver is an exhilarating and tense thrill ride that’s infectious with its high-octane energy, sheer creativity, and strong performances.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a talented, yet reluctant, getaway driver under the employment of notorious Atlanta kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) and yearns to eventually leave the criminal life behind in search of something more fulfilling. He suffers from a condition called tinnitus and constantly listens to music to drown out the ringing in his ears. Baby’s days are spent speeding away from heist targets, taking colorful robbers such as Griff (Jon Bernthal), Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), and Bats (Jamie Foxx) to safety once jobs are complete. Doc never uses the same crew more than once, but Baby has been his driver for years and is something of a lucky charm to him.
As his time with Doc winds down to a close, Baby meets waitress Debora (Lily James) and the two quickly fall in love with each other. They dream of driving away out West as a couple, but before that happens, Baby is pulled into the criminal underworld one more time to do another job with Doc and his associates. While going along with the plan, Baby simultaneously looks for a way to get out and leave everything before things get out of hand and reach a tipping point.
After concluding his Cornetto trilogy with 2013’s The World’s End and a falling out with Marvel over the creative direction of Ant-Man, Baby Driver is the latest film by writer/director Edgar Wright. The movie generated much attention over the course of its development due to its inventive use of the soundtrack and representing something of a change-of-pace for Wright as a helmsman. Using some classic crime films as inspiration, the hope going into the film was that it could continue Wright’s career-long hot streak and deliver rousingly entertaining summer fare. Fortunately, it hits on all spots. Baby Driver is an exhilarating and tense thrill ride that’s infectious with its high-octane energy, sheer creativity, and strong performances.
Wright is widely-known for comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver marks the next stage of his directorial evolution. There are certainly moments and lines of humor peppered throughout this caper, but Baby Driver is designed more as a noir/crime film as seen through the eyes of Wright. The end result is something that’s exceptionally stylish and pure fun to watch, but it never skimps on the dramatic stakes. Baby Driver builds up to a pressure-packed third act that feels unpredictable and will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. Wright proves he can deftly handle serious-minded material, suggesting that he’s just entering his directorial prime. This was a passion project of Wright’s for a long time, and what’s on the screen demonstrates his dedication to his craft and this particular story.
Baby Driver breaks away from the typical heist film mold by making the escapes from the crime scenes the big set pieces (as opposed to the robberies themselves). Audiences hear several times throughout the movie Baby is the best at what he does, and when he sits behind the wheel of any vehicle (be it a flashy car or a pickup truck), he does not disappoint. The action sequences are meticulously edited to match up with whatever song Baby happens to be listening to at the time, delivering car chases – and the occasional shootout – that are breathtaking and exciting in their execution. Wright has always been keen at finding the right songs for his movies, but he truly outdoes himself with Baby Driver, in which the music becomes a living aspect of the film and a character in its own right. The wide variety of tunes on Baby’s iPod ensure the soundtrack is never dull and has something for everyone.
The spectacle of Baby Driver is a wonder to behold, but its cast of characters is what puts it over the top. Elgort is a likable and kind-hearted protagonist, injecting Baby with a sweet innocence that makes him endearing. Wright allows viewers to truly become invested in the young driver by depicting his touching relationships with Debora and his foster parent Joe (CJ Jones). Elgort’s charm is a key reason why his performance works so well, but he’s hardly one-note. When called upon, he can shift gears and be as no-nonsense as any of his criminal associates – particularly towards the end of the film. Elgort also has nice chemistry with James, and the two are a delight to watch when they’re together and young love blossoms between them. Their dynamic arguably could have used a little more development, but they make a great couple nonetheless.
In terms of the supporting cast, Spacey is terrific as Doc, showcasing his dry wit and tenacious demeanor. Spacey makes an excellent crime boss and isn’t a stereotypical authoritative figure. There are layers to Doc that shine through, making him a fleshed out character. Foxx’s Bats is also a standout with an unhinged turn that constantly makes those around him uneasy. For moviegoers, Bats’ instability makes him an entertaining character to watch, as he’s the wild card of the group capable of anything at a moment’s notice. There really is no wasted role in Baby Driver; even smaller parts like Buddy and Darling are memorable due to the amounts of characterization they get through the dialogue and their interactions with Baby. Each member in the ensemble makes the most of their screen time and Wright puts all his actors in the best position to shine.
During a summer that’s been noteworthy for some high-profile disappointments, Baby Driver is a breath of fresh air at the multiplex, delivering a fantastic and original moviegoing experience that’s sure to please crowds. Wright hits on all fronts, once again illustrating why he’s one of the most creative voices working in the industry today. Baby Driver is a must-see on the big screen, whether one is a fan of Wright’s style, crime films, or just movies in general. It’s fun, wild, and a treat for viewers across the board.
Baby Driver is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 113 minutes and is rated R for violence and language throughout.
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