Ladies and gentleman, we have a new classic. Edgar Wright’s stunning concoction of music and vivacity bestows a lavish buffet of thrills that will pin you to your seat and won’t let go. It is sure to prevail among the summer’s finest, and it will be an easy contender for one of the best of 2017.
Inspired by the 1969 song of the same name by Simon and Garfunkel, Baby Driver is a flawless execution of style and experimentation. It demonstrates the absolute peak of the action genre and popcorn entertainment, and it represents the consummate realization of Edgar Wright as an expert filmmaker.
After amassing myriads of followers with canny genre spoofs including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Wright first forayed into bold idiosyncrasy with the offbeat comic adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Following his collaboration on Marvel’s Ant-Man, Wright has taken a deep dive into more ambitious territory with the passion project he’s been ruminating for the past 20 years, and the results are glorious.
Ansel Elgort is Baby, that’s B-A-B-Y, Baby, a gifted getaway driver finishing his last string of jobs to pay off his debt to a local kingpin that goes by “Doc” (Kevin Spacey). Baby gets his moniker from his affectionate late mother, a beautiful singer who died when they were both involved in a horrific car wreck that left Baby an orphan with a “hum in the drum.”
Due to his childhood accident, Baby’s defining quirk is that he listens to music 24 hours a day, striking those he comes into contact with as markedly antisocial. Once his debt is paid, he meets Debora (Lily James), a charming young waitress with whom he shares an innate chemistry, and things look up. Doc, however, has other ideas, wanting to harness Baby’s driving talent permanently.
After proving he could make pre-teen girls swoon in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series, Ansel Elgort exhibits exceptional prowess as an action star with effortless magnetism. Charming Lily James dazzles as the perfect complement to Baby’s brand of oddity, and Kevin Spacey delivers yet another effective performance as an ominous psychopath.
Baby Driver’s perfectly cast set of supporting players includes Jon Bernthal offering his seasoned specialty as a slimy gangster, Jamie Foxx thriving for the first time in a while as an arrogant gunman, and the mostly untried actress Eiza Gonzales shining as the film’s femme fatale. Jon Hamm displays some exceptional work in his post-Mad Men phase as a resourceful felon who constitutes a formidable opponent for our hero.
While Baby Driver is a magnificently crafted action entry in its own right, Wright’s interpolation of music via Baby’s iPod obsession is the turning point that elevates the film to greatness. This inventive mark of brilliance injects an infectious energy by choreographing entire sequences to music, and dovetails into a stylistic spin with the confidence of Tarantino. Beyond just being creative, this element functions as the work’s dramatic centerpiece, as we explore the ways Baby’s love for music interacts with the pain over the loss of his mother.
The film offers profound cinematography by Bill Pope in even its calmest moments. Your jaw will drop in an impeccably choreographed sequence where Baby is dancing through the streets to get coffee set to the beat of one of his favorite tracks. With few, if any cuts, Baby runs into passengers, barely avoids getting run over, and navigates obstacles in a set piece of astonishing detail. And that’s before any of the excitement even begins.
In addition to assured direction, inventive experimentation, memorable acting, quippy dialogue, and extraordinary cinematography and choreography, Baby Driver is a visual smorgasbord. Set in a slice of Atlanta that appears to have never left the 80s, vibrant costume design augments a color palette of sun-tinted hues of pink and yellow. If Wright’s perfected eccentricity isn’t enough to set this film apart, it all comes in a package of sensory delights.
While Baby Driver’s crime-driven premise isn’t totally original, it integrates the greatest elements of Drive and Reservoir Dogs with Wright’s own flair of madcap genius to create a truly outstanding feat of filmmaking. It stands among the foremost the action genre, and it is sure to endure for generations to come. What more can I say? Go see Baby Driver right now.