By Brad Haynes
★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★
At first glance, Baby Driver appears to simply be an action movie in the car chase vein, but at it’s heart it is really a musical.
Don’t get me wrong. No one actually breaks out into song like in La La Land. Instead, every car chase, every gun shot, and every movement is expertly choreographed to one of the best movie soundtracks in a long time. Just see if you can resist a smile after witnessing the inventive and awe-inspiring opening sequence of the film.
It’s not to say that the film doesn’t have a few holes. The movie follows young getaway driver Baby (charmingly played by winsome Ansel Elgort) who has somehow become indebted to crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). There’s no reference to how this happened (thus one of the many holes), we simply know that he had a debt and is getting close to paying it off, and conceivably leaving a life of crime.
The chief conceit to Baby’s driving skills is that he is completely immersed in music as he drives, with the pounding rhythms of such songs as The John Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms (an amazing piece of music that fits the heist chase perfectly) getting him out of some pretty gnarly situations and covering the ringing in his ears that he experiences from tinnitus acquired by a car wreck at a young age.
His daring job is to help a brash band of criminals including Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (an impressive Jon Hamm, leaving his Mad Men character far behind) and Buddy’s girl Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) escape their robberies.
Just as his servitude to Doc is about to expire, Baby meets Debora (Lily James), a young waitress whom he quickly falls for head over heels. Unfortunately, this also gives Doc even more of a hold over his young automotive savant. Bats tells Baby, “The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet.” The final act of the film finds Baby, along with Debora, doing everything they can to avoid that bullet.
Wright, who has proven to be a genius at throwing film tropes on their ear with his earlier films like the zom-com Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, is at the top of his game here, getting the most out of his talented acting crew and making one of the most original and thrilling car-chase vehicles ever put to film. This is faster and more furious than anything that other film franchise has ever had to offer.
At the center of it all is Elgort’s portrayal of Baby, and it’s an impressive one. Lean and lanky, with pouty and sensual lips, Elgort walks that fine line between the innocence of adolescence and the sensuality of adulthood, making you believe in every choice Baby makes along the way. He was good in his breakout film, The Fault In Our Stars, but here he is great, as are all the key players.
It’s the summer blockbuster that’s going to have everyone talking…and rightly so.
Good: It’s an octane-fueled music video, choreographed to perfection with some amazing performances by the entire cast.
The Bad: Some plot holes will have you questioning some of the lead’s motivations, but probably not until you have left the theater.
Final Word: Probably the most fun you’re bound to have in the cinema all summer long. Just make sure that you don’t leave the theater parking lot with the pedal to the metal.
Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx. Directed by Edgar Wright.
Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes