Updated: Feb 4
Baby Driver is a fast-paced action thriller about a young man with tinnitus (Ansel Elgort, from the 2014 teen drama The Fault in Our Stars) who does jobs as a getaway driver for a powerful businessman (Kevin Spacey). The driver, nicknamed Baby, is constantly playing music through his earphones to drown out the ringing in his ears and writer/director Edgar Wright and his sound department use that music to create one of the most fun, exciting, and flat out entertaining action movies I have seen in quite some time.
Baby is constantly cueing up songs on his iPod and his taste is very eclectic. The vast majority of the film’s action is set in time to his music. Whether it is during one of the driving sequences or a simple scene such as Baby walking down the street, all of the movement has a consistent rhythm to it. The soundtrack is what really makes this film move. Everything, from the song choices to the use of sounds, is done in the service of allowing viewers to feel what it is like to be inside Baby’s head.
While the action and soundtrack of Baby Driver are what make it fun, its character details are what elevate it from “really good action movie” to “really good movie” without any qualifiers necessary. Despite the fact that Baby does not verbalize his emotions, he is still a very easy character to empathize with. Ansel Elgort is extremely likable and sympathetic in the role. That is the key to the film’s success because the climactic scenes are far more dramatic and engaging if the audience truly cares about what happens to the character. The film even managed to get me emotionally involved in the car chase scenes and I tired of movie car chases a long time ago. The action scenes are cleverly done, but it is the way the screenplay makes them about the characters that make them stand out.
As in many crime films, the supporting cast is very important and here they add a lot of color. Kevin Spacey is solid and menacing as the crime boss. He is definitely not a nice man, but he is professional and reliable so long as you do not cross him. On the other end of the spectrum are Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx as two of Baby’s clients. They are delightfully insane and unpredictable. Additionally, Lily James (the star of Disney’s 2015 live-action Cinderella adaptation) is appropriately sweet and likable as the object of Baby’s affections. Their relationship is convincing enough to add some higher stakes to the final scenes. None of these supporting characters are one-dimensional caricatures. They have their own stories which combine with Baby’s story to add welcome depth to the film.
Baby Driver (108 minutes without the end credits) is Edgar Wright’s fifth film as a writer/director (after the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy and 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World, all well-liked by me). All of his films are twists on well-worn genres though, despite its sense of humor, Baby Driver is the first of his films that cannot be considered a comedy. It takes elements from previous crime and chase films and mixes them together with Wright’s sensibilities to create something unique.
A few months ago, I wrote about the lack of original films at the multiplexes during the summer movie season. Everything seems to be a sequel or an adaptation. Just a fresh gloss on a story we have already seen. Baby Driver is the response to that. It is original, clever, surprising and fun. It may not boast huge stars or have tons of marketing hype behind it, but it doesn’t need it. Baby Driver speaks for itself and it is one of the best films of the year.
4½ out of 5
Ansel Elgort as Baby
Kevin Spacey as Doc
Lily James as Debora
Jon Hamm as Buddy
Eiza Gonzalez as Darling
Jamie Foxx as Bats
Written and Directed by Edgar Wright