by Toby Woollaston
Like all Edgar Wright movies, Baby Driver is a kinetically charged explosion of style. A lively thrill from start to end laced with musical sensibilities. But considering his previous work (Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, to name a couple) this should come as no surprise. He is a restless director who seemingly enjoys turning simple plot-lines into hyper-jazzed feature length films … and he does it so well.
Ansel Elgort is the eponymous Baby. A talented getaway driver forever in debt to a criminal king-pin named Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby suffers tinnitus, a “hum in the drum” as the po-faced Kevin Spacey describes, meaning he wears earbuds with a carefully chosen iPod playlist to drown out the constant ringing—a distraction which he finds insufferable. The iPod also provides the soundtrack to his life. He is, in a sense, living in a musical as exemplified in an early scene (that ventures unabashedly into La La Land opening sequence territory) where Baby dances down the street to Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle.
Baby Driver is a fine example of a genre film owing a lot to the crime, heist, and car-chase films of yesteryear. But its musical sensibilities are what sets it apart in which everything is cut and choreographed very sharply to Baby’s pumping iPod soundtrack. The result provides a modern-retro vibe. Yes, iPods are now retro (*sigh* … I feel so old).
Elgort’s background in dance is a casting choice that pays off—his sense of movement to the music being vital to the entire movie. Wright also gets solid (if somewhat predictable) performances from his supporting A-listers. It’s an ensemble cast of pretty big hitters who all seem to be enjoying themselves. Jon Hamm stands out as a delightfully loathsome Casanova. Fox and Spacey are in fine scenery chewing form, and a twee young-love subplot comes courtesy of Lily James.
By no means perfect, Baby Driver does threaten at times to become an overcooked mess stomping heavily on well-used tropes and pumping out every cliche in the book, but thankfully Wright’s pin-sharp direction keeps things in check. He knows exactly what to do with this material and never loses sight of his audience. Baby Driver is a joy to watch and it’s clear that Wright loves making cinema. This is a pure cinema rush.
You can see my published reviews here.