MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Comedy/ Stars: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Flea, CJ Jones, Sky Ferreira/ Runtime: 113 minutes
I feel it safe to start this review off fellow movie goers by stating that in my personal opinion director Edgar Wright doesn’t just make great films. Instead I feel he makes rewarding films in that, ever since Shaun of the Dead way back in ‘04, not only are they all extremely entertaining when you first view them, but then they become something akin to brilliance. This is because you start noticing upon each time you watch after that first time the excessive attention to detail that simply adds new levels to the narrative being played out before you. Upon seeing it I can also honestly say that Baby Driver, a project I feel I should add that Wright has been developing for a solid two decades, is most certainly no exception to this. This is because while it will take multiple screenings for one to fully consume everything it has to offer, it will at the same time only take one watch for a person to recognize the film as an exceptional piece of art.
Indeed in the same way that Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End are enjoyable tributes to the zombie horror, ’80s action, and ’50s paranoia run rampant sci-fi genres respectively, Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s tribute to the heist movie as well as non-singing & dancing (See 2012 Les Miserables it CAN be done) musical, and the film just works on practically every single aspect imaginable. Indeed this film truly is put together unlike anything you’ve seen before, and while at the same time mixes together fast chases, a smart and enjoyable wit, some genuine high-stakes drama, a gallery of fantastic performances and a phenomenal soundtrack this is also really truly everything you could want from a film-going experience.
The plot is as follows: a young man named Baby (Ansel Elgort) is perhaps the world’s greatest getaway driver. This is because despite suffering from a persistent case of tinnitus that comes courtesy of a car crash that killed both of his parents when he was young, Baby perpetually has headphones piping music to his brain…a fact that just so happens means that he can also find perfect synchronicity with a beat that in turn then allows him to execute some absolutely incredible vehicle maneuvers behind the wheel. Despite being the best in the business however, the criminal underworld is one that he desperately wants to escape more than continue to be in the service of, and it isn’t long after Baby has a love-at-first-sight encounter with a new waitress at his favorite diner (Lily James) that he begins to plot his departure from the previously stated world no matter what the cost.
Now sporting a 30-ish song soundtrack that honestly should become either a must-buy, or in my case at least a coveted Christmas wish-list idea, for anyone who sees the movie, Baby Driver is a film that is entirely built around the music being played and the end result is truly nothing short of an astonishing feat. This is because the soundtrack possess not only a stunning degree of specificity, but it also is assembled with a true sense of hyper-elegance. Indeed it’s astonishingly breathtaking to watch everything from a one-shot coffee run choreographed to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle,” all the way to a final showdown set to Queen’s “Brighton Rock” to the point that the music becomes, in addition to a killer soundtrack as stated before, almost like a special effect in the film due to the fact that what they are able to accomplish with the music alone will have leaving the theater not only with a grin on your face, but also shaking your head incredulously and repeatedly asking yourself over and over “How the hell did they do what I just saw?”
Also I feel it should be mentioned that Baby Driver has the (unintended?) effect of making the action from Wright’s previous film Hot Fuzz look like a complete through and through tutorial level for a racing video game. I say this because this film’s numerous car chases in addition to that effect might as well also serve as stress tests for the arm rests of theater seats. This is due to the fact that Ansel Elgort and the expert stunt team manage to pull off moves in these vehicles that you would ordinarily think, and rightfully so, impossible. Indeed this truly proves to be a credit to the impressive realism that only an immense amount of dedication towards the rare craft that is practical on-set work can provide so that while your foot is tapping to the beat of that addicting soundtrack, your heart is perpetually in your throat because this film’s car chases will make you feel as if you are strapped to the hood of Baby’s car and going along for the wild ride that follows.
Now in line with such movies as Walter Hill, who I dare say makes a cameo that I didn’t even know about till film’s end’s, 1978 Ryan O’Neal and Bruce Dern-starrer The Driver, Michael Mann’s 1995 cops and robbers Pacino v. DeNiro masterpiece Heat, and Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 John Wick vs. Patrick Swayze thriller Point Break, Baby Driver manages to generate as well as perpetuate some truly high stakes not only though the danger and daring that present itself during the heist, but also by doing something remarkable in that this film makes you truly care about the characters involved in this tale. Despite all of that though the most amazing thing about this film is the sense of comedic timing on display and how it ultimately enhances the entire film with its tricky balancing act in that while the comedic timing is present the film also knows how and when to take itself seriously yet also allows to bend over laughing at certain points. That and not to mention there’s also a demonstrated appreciation for all the tropes that have made this film’s particular genre great yet there is also fantastic gentle ribbing at the same time with particular kudos going not only to an already praised highly sequence involving some sincere confusion about rubber Halloween masks, but also to a scene that showcases Kevin Spacey’s skills in lecturing and drawing a detailed chalkboard map at the same time (oh the things you’ve learned Frank Underwood…oh the things you’ve learned….)
Now that same mix of tones in combination with some wonderful yet complex character arcs also does a fantastic job of creating tremendous opportunities for the fantastic ensemble cast of Baby Driver all of which however is anchored by the wonderful chemistry between Fault in Our Stars’ Ansel Elgort’s alternating between tight-lipped and smartass Baby and Lily James from the live action Cinderella remake from 2015 as Debora, the beautiful southern belle who upon meeting and falling in love with our hero is completely ready to move her life far, far away from Georgia and join him on the road and never ever look back. As strong as our protagonists are however the real show comes from the balancing act that our movie’s group of intensely shady individuals all provide and they are all honestly played to absolute perfection by Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez considering they all have a special way of managing to blend sinister and friendly so effortlessly that they will always leave you wondering what to expect from them and their characters next.
All in all and at the end of the day though when one looks over Edgar Wright’s filmography, Baby Driver is easily the most accessible film, despite the R-rating, that we’ve seen from this consistently enjoyable auteur. Indeed Baby Driver truly is a thrill from end to end plus when you mix that with the facts that this is funnier than any straight studio comedy we’ve seen this summer as well as a film that actually reads as a perfect passion project all combined make for one of the best films of the year so far. On a scale of 1-5 I give Baby Driver a solid 4 out of 5.