When Edgar Wright left Marvel’s Ant-Man movie, many wondered what would be next for the writer/director, and some worried that leaving a high profile project would be detrimental to his career. Well thankfully the time since his last film, 2013’s The World’s End, was put to good use developing Baby Driver, which is one of his best films to date.
The concept of Baby Driver is fairly simple, Baby, played by an understated Ansel Elgort, is a getaway driver, and real good one at that. The hook being that because of an accident as a child, Baby drowns out a constant humming with music, so much music. The film follows baby as he works with a group of nefarious individuals robbing banks, and eluding the cops in increasingly elaborate ways. The tension comes when Baby means Debra, a waitress at the local diner who Baby has an immediate attraction to. The plot plays out more or less a you would expect, but despite some more predictable elements, the film’s stylistic approach elevates the film as a whole, and makes it the enjoyable experience that it is.
With concept of Baby listening to music at the core of the film’s plot, Wright is able to incorporate the music choices into the fabric of the film, and bring the audience in, in a way that is much more engaging than simply playing the song out loud that Baby is listening to. The song choices are deliberate, and each is played at the exact right moment, and fit with the exact beats of the action sequences. The is a particularly good scene where a heist is about to begin, and due to crew bickering, Baby needs to start the song over so as to not disrupt the rhythm. It’s this attention to detail that makes the film special. Wright even pairs normal foley audio, so that normal clang, and thud type sound effects, happen on down beats in the song, and come together like a remix of sorts to the track that is playing. It is quite impressive how much the soundtrack is as much a character in this film as the actors, because Baby Driver would not be the same if the music was not so big an element. While the choice to weave the music into the film could be seen as a simple gimmick, Wright goes a step beyond, to make the music an essential part of Baby’s character, and the scenes explaining the way he is, as well as showing how music is such a big part of his life, make for some very enjoyable moments. There are also a few funny moments in the film making fun of all of the iPods that Baby has to listen to music, including a pink rhinestone one that feels very out of place in his world.
Now all of the music in the world wouldn’t make a difference if the cast was bad, so thankfully everybody in this film does a fantastic job. Elgort plays the role of Baby with a quiet cool, as his character only speaks when he needs to, which give more meaning to the things he is saying. He impresses early on when he repeats the plan for a heist in detail, when it appeared he was zoned out listening to music. These moments help the character to stand out and feel important, even when he is meek compared to the the rough types that he drives for. The whole operation is run by Kevin Spacey, and he is at his best here, playing a less conniving version of his House of Cards character, while still remaining an intimidating force when he wants to be. There is one scene in particular between him and Elgort that was both funny, as well as a little scary, considering what it means for Baby at that moment. The rest of the crews are mainly made up of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, and Eiza González. Foxx is the big deal of the group, and his brand of crazy is a real wild card in all of the scenes he is in, because he conveys a real sense that he could do anything at any time. His character also gets more screen time than the rest, but Hamm gives a particular good performance as well, and those two actors pull off their characters remarkably well. Bernthal and González are both suitable, though neither particularly stand out, mostly because of how little they are utilized. Another character that isn’t given a lot of screen time is Lily James’s Debra. She is important to the story, and her scenes with Baby are particular good. The two actors have a chemistry that makes this love at first sight relationship believable, so it is a bit of a shame that she isn’t around a bit more, because the two are fun to watch.
It really is quite amazing how Wright was able to pull in so many elements, and craft a cohesive, entertaining, action packed, and stylistic film that just works. So much of this film fits exactly as it should, with only a small number of things holding it back. The action moments, including several shoot-outs, and more than a handful of very impressive driving and chase sequences, add to the character drama taking place, which are all wrapped together with the music to make for one of the summer’s first true must see films.