This review was originally posted on 4/28/2017.
There isn’t a single moment wasted in Baby Driver. In the opening scene, we find getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) on the job. He’s in his car, parked outside of a bank currently in the process of being robbed, whilst jamming out to the song “Bellbottoms.” Baby has a youthful charisma to him, dancing around seemingly without a care in the world, during what obviously is a tense situation. Once the bank has been relinquished of its cash, the heist crew piles into the car, and it’s time for Baby to go. While the older, hardened criminals freak out with the fuzz on their tail, Baby remains as cool as a cucumber, shades on, earbuds in, effortlessly driving literal circles around pursuing police officers to the beat of his music.
Baby’s a good kid, and it’s immediately obvious the criminal underworld doesn’t suit him. But, due to a mistake made year’s ago, Baby is in debt to Doc (Kevin Spacey), a kingpin of bank robbers. To pay off this debt, Baby has no choice but to act as the getaway driver for all of Doc’s various heists. Doc has a rotating roster of bank robbers, including Buddy (Jon Hamm), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza González), and Griff (Jon Bernthal), but he never uses the same combination twice. The only constant is Baby, Doc’s lucky charm.
Baby is fairly resigned to his current situation. He doesn’t particularly like the work he does, but it pays the bills and helps him take care of his deaf foster dad Joe. At least, until he meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress that he falls head over heels for. Deborah inflicts Baby with the spark that he needed to get out of the criminal game. One more job, and he’s done. Of course, these things are never this easy.
Music is the secret to Baby’s success as a getaway driver. As a child, Baby was involved in a horrific car accident that left him with a constant ringing in his ears. The music helps drown it out, while also keeping him sharply focused as a driver. The adrenaline-fueled opening car chase sets the tone for the entire film: Tense, energetic, and fun. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver moves at such a rhythmic pace that it’s nigh impossible to resist its charms.
As is the case with most of Wright’s filmography, Baby Driver exists as a masterclass in film editing and directing. Baby is almost constantly listening to his iPod, which means music diegetically plays throughout the entirety of the film. With the precision of a musical, every action in the film syncs to the rhythm of the music beautifully. Each cut in this film feels deliberate and purposeful. The impact of every motion, every gesture, and every gunshot is heightened due to the effectiveness of the film’s kinetic editing. Without a semblance of exaggeration, Baby Driver contains some of the best car chases in film history.
Seriously, the action scenes in this film are absolutely incredible. Edgar Wright has already demonstrated his talent at directing thrilling action sequences with his comedic films such as Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. With Baby Driver, his talents are even more refined. Cars drift and swerve around one another with frenetic ferocity, gunshots ring out with riveting potency. This thing is fucking intense.
Baby Driver’s secret weapon is Ansel Elgort. Baby-faced, introverted, and soft-spoken, you’d never take this kid as a bad ass getaway driver, but Elgort’s magnetic performance sells it completely. When he’s on the job, Baby is calm and collected. When he’s off on his own or enjoying the company of Debora, he’s skipping around town, singing and dancing with a joyous smile. Baby is a kid at heart with an underlying vulnerability to him. As the stakes begin to rise as the film wears on, the cracks in Baby’s cool facade begin to show.
Baby Driver’s other secret weapon is Jon Hamm, who turns in an uncharacteristically unhinged and menacing performance as the bad ass Buddy. While he’s certainly not the most unpredictable guy in the bunch (that honor goes to Jamie Foxx’s Bats), you’re never quite sure what to make of him. Thanks to an exceptionally tight script from Wright, each member of Doc’s crew are all interesting and weird enough to make an impression. Wright’s comedy roots are almost instantly apparent. The interplay and dialogue between the characters are utterly hilarious.
With all that being said, Baby Driver is by no means perfect, there are nits to be picked. The romance between Baby and Debora is a tad underdeveloped. It ends up being carried by the delightful chemistry between Elgort and James, but it still manages to work. I still totally buy into their romance. The final act could also use a bit of tightening up, primarily in the film’s climactic face-off, which begins to feel a little repetitive. But even then, it remains exciting and engaging all the way up to the roll of the credits. The entire film embodies such raw and dynamic energy without losing a sense of genuine fun. Backed by an eclectic mix of catchy tunes, Baby Driver is a complete joy ride from beginning to end. I can’t wait to watch it again.