Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx
Release Date: June 28th, 2017
Baby Driver is a movie built around a unique concept but one that never succumbs to the concept’s limitations. The concept of the film is simple. A young man (Ansel Elgort), injured in a car accident at a young age and forced to live with a constant humming in his ears, listens to music while working as a getaway driver for local criminals. The music provides his perfect soundtrack as he races behind the wheel.
Writer/director Edgar Wright starts the feature by focusing on Baby (Elgort) during a heist sequence. As local thugs rob a nearby establishment, Baby listens intently to his tunes — moving smoothly to the beat even while violence surrounds him. His eventual escape from the authorities is impressive and welcomes viewers into his unique world of music and mayhem.
The rest of the cast is soon introduced with a sinister Kevin Spacey starring as Doc, a heist specialist who pays Baby to guide members of his criminal network away from the scenes of their crimes. Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza González co-star as Griff, Buddy, Darling and Bats— four thieves who operate under Doc’s tutelage.
The supporting cast is strong but Ansel Elgort provides the true heart of this film. The actor, best known for his work in The Fault in our Stars, settles smoothly into his character’s skin. In many of the early scenes, his movements are rhythmic and inspired as if he’s always dancing to a beat (even when no one else can hear it). A particularly elegant scene finds Baby picking up coffee at a local coffee shop and casually returning to the office with nary a wrong move. In some of his other films, Elgort’s character has been defined by what he says. Here, his character is defined by how he moves and we watch him glide through his daily routines and tense up when things go haywire. Baby doesn’t talk that often but Elgort’s rich body language shows what the character is feeling.
Baby’s life takes a turn when he meets Debora (Lily James), a local waitress. Debora is hopeful and upbeat, unlike Baby’s colleagues. Of course, their relationship is eventually threatened by Baby’s work. As Darling states, “In this business, the moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet.”
Some of the plot twists here might seem predictable for heist films but Wright has this ability to change the story on cue. As soon as you think you know where the story is going, he veers it in another direction. Even the climax here isn’t the traditional car chase you would expect.
In the heist genre, Wright has truly created a unique entry. Like in his earlier film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he creates a colorful and intricate world here where even minute details stand out. A scene in a laundromat, for instance, could’ve felt like a typical scene of exposition. Instead, Wright uses the setting as a vivid location (complete with brightly-colored laundry swirling in the background) to build up the relationship between Baby and Debora. There are other sequences — like a few glimpses into a black-and-white world — that truly make this cinematic treat stand out.
At a time when sequels are rampant at the theater, Baby Driver stands out as an exciting and electric film. Here is a craftsman embracing his craft and combining many disparate elements of the genre into one must-see motion picture.
Review by: John Hanlon