Review: Baby Driver
Baby Driver opens with a bang and never lets up for a moment. Writer/director Edgar Wright has put on screen a new kind of cool action movie and one that never takes it foot off the gas. In a world of comic book movies, reboots, and Transformers, it’s refreshing to see a picture that takes us for a ride while feeling fresh and original.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is an enigma: a man who can drive fast and do it with impeccable timing, all the while rocking out to an awesome track on one of his many iPods. In his spare time, he lives with his deaf foster parent (played by deaf actor C.J. Jones) whom he cares deeply for, and creates mini mixes from dialogue he records for his own amusement and no one else’s.
Baby has tinnitus in his ears as a result of a bad accident that claimed his parents when he was a kid. He drowns it out with music, which is why he’s the best, working for Doc (Kevin Spacey) as he pays off a debt due to stealing Doc’s Mercedes. The last job before they are straight is here, and Baby is hoping that will finally be the end.
In the meantime, he has met a sweet waitress named Debora (Lily James) who is just as taken with him as he is with her. After the last job Baby thinks he’s a free man, but Doc wants him back for another job that promises big profit. Doc gives the ultimatum: “You’re behind the wheel or you’re in a wheelchair.”
What happens next you must discover for yourself. Baby Driver never for a second feels padded or forced, making Wright one of those rare filmmakers who knows how to keep everything moving without getting bogged down in exposition. This is also a testament to the editing by Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, who keep the trips to the past quick like the memories we reflect on from time to time.
Elgort is perfectly low-key as Baby. He knows when to let his moments speak for themselves but he’s also up to the task when the more physical moments of the second half come into play. James may feel relegated to a damsel in distress role, but she gets a moment or two that really click (especially the scene in the laundromat, which is a perfect moment of contentment for these two people).
The supporting players are a blast to watch. Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx in particular have so much fun as Baby’s biggest threats throughout, relishing every bit of their screen time. Jon Hamm is also fun as a guy who keeps kicking even when he has nothing left to fight for, and Eiza González shines as his gun-toting moll.
Then there is the soundtrack, which features one great track after another. The title sequence set to Bob and Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle,” which sets up how Baby lives when he’s not driving, is ingenious. He is lost in his own world and loving it. It’s a blissful moment for Baby that leaves the audience agape, and doing it in one take makes it feel creatively distinct.
Baby Driver is filled with moments like that, including its wonderfully minimalist ending, which tells us everything we need to know in a series of short shots. It’s a great finale to a ride we never knew we needed. After five spectacular movies (and one amazing TV show before that), Edgar Wright belongs in the conversation with directors like Stanley Kubrick, Spike Jonze, and Paul Thomas Anderson whose movies are invariably worth the long waits between releases. Baby Driver is the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year.