REVIEW — “Baby Driver”
For such a vivid and lively filmmaker such as Edgar Wright, it only seems fitting that his fifth feature-length film is centered entirely around its own soundtrack. From the brilliant opening sequence, Baby Driver perfectly choreographs an absolutely enthralling and bad-ass car chase set to the sound of Bellbottoms from the titular character Baby’s iPod; the gunfire, roaring engines, tire screeches, etc. all sync up to the song in a way that only Edgar Wright can deliver. In other words, I was in love with this film from the opening sequence, and luckily, my love only grew as the film progresses. In many ways, this is a love letter to the art of sight and sound – a whopping reminder of how effective those things can be for the senses when an auteur filmmaker such as Wright has complete control over everything that happens on screen. Baby Driver is not only the most fun you’ll have in a theater this Summer, but it’s probably one of the most fresh and original films you’ll see in theaters for years to come.
The film follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a quiet yet fiercely talented getaway driver that needs to listen to music to block out a ringing in his ear; a side effect of a tragic accident from his childhood. Baby always gets away clean and quick, with little trace of evidence to find him or the criminals he transports. He primarily works for Doc (Kevin Spacey) in order to repay a debt and get out of this life while he’s still young. The job requires him to transport the real criminals such as Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s wife Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Bats (Jamie Foxx) back with their cash safely. His life is as simple as a getaway driver’s can be, and his goal to getting out is seemingly getting closer with each passing job. This all changes once he falls for a waitress, Debora (Lily James), due to their mutual love for music and both of their urges to leave this city and its people behind in their rear view mirror. The plot may sound familiar, and in many regards it plays familiar beats in order to pay homage to films that came before, but the film itself is anything but familiar.
This film manages to balance a fairly impressive tone of mostly wacky, colorful thrills that make for a light and enjoyable viewing with plenty of belly laughs to spare, but also manages to quietly build-up the tension for the third act blow-out of anarchy pitch perfectly. I didn’t realize how invested in all of this I was until shit hit the fan in the third act, and it unexpectedly flipped into something so unbearably tense that I was quite literally on the edge of my seat and audibly reacting to every “ooh!” and “ah!” with the rest of the audience. I knew that I was in love with this film as an aspiring filmmaker and editing, music, and film nerd from the get-go, but I wasn’t quite aware of how in love with it I was as a sheer audience member until we got to the very end and I found myself wanting to give it a standing ovation at the first sight of credits. Somehow, someway, this is the rare film that is as equally a masterpiece of filmmaking artistry as it is a popcorn flick for the Summer crowd. It’s a rarity to find that equal measure, but Baby Driver walks that line perfectly.
The entire cast here is pretty fantastic, as Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzales, and Jon Hamm get to have a lot of fun with their roles and ham it up as cartoon-ish baddies, and Kevin Spacey chews up the scenery as the rough yet calculated mob boss; but the film’s beating heart lies within the chemistry between Ansel Elgort and Lily James, who have such a simple yet authentic, unspoken chemistry and glimmers in their eyes that remind you that movie stars still exist. You can make an exciting action comedy without compelling leads, but the film gets a lot of mileage out of your emotional investment in these two. You want them to get out of the city and never look back, and every single threat that prevents them from doing so frustrates and excites you fully. I left the theater for this hours ago, and I’m still on the high that the film set upon me. It is a mixture of everything I love about action, romance, comedy, genre pictures/homages.. but most of all, it’s a reminder of everything I love about film in general. It’s a brilliant rush of energy that the Summer season sorely needs, and will without a doubt be one of my favorite films by the end of the year, if not my #1 pick. Baby Driver is movie magic at its finest. 5/5.