All images courtesy of Sony Pictures
With Edgar Wright’s distinct vision and knack for creating off-center, genre-bending films, his fans are always chomping at the bit to see what he has coming up next. One could easily say that his latest, BABY DRIVER is a cooler and less bleak version of Drive. Sure, both have a getaway driver as the protagonist, but that’s where the comparisons stop. Plus, Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver is a lot more fun than a brooding Ryan Gosling in a quilted satin bomber jacket with a totally rad scorpion on the back.
Elgort plays the titular Baby, an innocent-looking getaway driver who is a beast behind the wheel. His special set of skills are highly related to his relationship to music. Always seen with earbuds plugged into his ears, Baby uses different playlists on his vast collection of iPods to cater to his driving and his everyday life. He works for criminal kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey), who has been running a string of daytime robberies thanks to his brazen cohorts and Baby’s flawless fast-driving maneuvering. Baby and Doc have an agreement for one more job — and that’s good for Baby since this job is starting to weigh down on his conscience.
Doc assembles a new team for this high-paying job which includes former Wall Street worker Buddy (Jon Hamm), his sweet-talking partner-in-crime Darling (Eliza Gonzalez), and the bold and unhinged Bats (Jamie Foxx). All seems well, but Bats doesn’t trust Baby’s aloof demeanor and keeps a close eye on him. As the rift between the two grows, the job shifts gears from a smooth ride to going a frantically off the rails — which makes Baby Driver an inimitable heist film that will give you a rush of high-octane thrills.
Baby Driver feels different from some of his popular works in that there is no extreme genre-bend to the story. As opposed to something like a zombie apocalypse (Shaun of the Dead) or a real-life 8-bit video game (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), the film is grounded in reality with no fantastical touchstone, which finely showcases Wright’s specific kind of storytelling. It’s action-packed, a tad but absurd, clever, and thoroughly engaging. His use adrenaline-pumping 80 mph fast cuts are just as thoughtful as the more endearing, slowed-down moments between Baby and his deaf foster dad (CJ Jones) as well as his charming interaction with love interest Debora (Lily James).
As Baby, Elgort carries the torch well with his fitting baby face and sweet demeanor. At the same time, he can flip it and be the bad ass driver he needs to be without compromising his undeniable teen pin-up smile. Wright, who wrote also wrote script, fostered this character well, giving nuance and depth to his obsession with his playlists of retro rock and soul, which could have easily been a gimmick. In this universe, Baby’s soundtrack makes sense and it’s woven in brilliantly with such detail to add dimension and character to the story.
Elgort definitely has fun with the character and his co-stars are right alongside him enjoying themselves just as much. Foxx, Hamm, and Gonzalez play hardened criminals with style and Foxx stands out as the biggest meanie of them all. All the while, James as diner waitress Debora adds a much-needed sweetness and gentleness to film — but she has more to do than just catering to Baby. Even though there are times she is just waiting for him, she has a mind of her own and gives the impression that she can take initiative if need be. James economizes her time on screen by not making her into a damsel in distress, but more of a Bonnie to Baby’s Clyde.
Watching Baby Driver made me yearn for Wright’s version of Ant-Man. Not saying that Marvel’s final version of the superhero flick wasn’t good, but Wright’s excitement, vision, and energy is insanely off the charts when it comes to his films and to see it translated into something like Ant-Man would have been ridiculously amazing. But alas, Wright didn’t direct Ant-Man, but instead transferred his creative juices into Baby Driver and we are all better for it. The action-thriller keeps you in the fast lane and is a heist film that has Edgar Wright written all over it. With its blaring music, heart-racing chase scenes, and Cornetto Trilogy-brand humor, Baby Driver is pure summer blockbuster entertainment that leaves its competition in the dust.
Running time: 113 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Follow Dino on Twitter: @dinoray
Keep up with all of Dino’s reviews and stories here.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Film Critic