Baby Driver announces its presence with authority early. Three sketchy-looking yet presentable individuals emerge from a car and enter a bank where they will rob it.
Of course, any bank robbery isn’t complete without a getaway driver and that person so happens to be Baby. Yes, B-A-B-Y, Baby. He looks like he’s about twelve, but get him in a car and he’s Steve McQueen, Mozart and Mario Andretti.
But he can’t just drive the car. He also needs his music to sync with the experience. The soundtrack of life so to speak.
What follows is a breathtaking car chase through the streets of Atlanta that involves cop cars, helicopters and slick maneuvering by Baby to evade them all while jamming to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
But it doesn’t stop there. Following the job, Baby begins his morning-after-the-robbery routine of getting coffee for the crew and collecting his take. Now you would think a scene where a guy gets coffee would be simple and forgettable. Not with director Edgar Wright.
The scene begins looking up at a building, drops and follows Baby as he walks down the street synchronizing “Harlem Shuffle” with every step that he takes. A beeping ATM, a construction worker’s drill and a protester’s speaker phone are among the many sounds mixed into the beats of the song. Oh, and it’s also all done in one shot.
This is who Wright is. A visual storyteller with an eye for choreography and editing who also happens to be a giant film nerd like many of us. You see that passion in his work. He’s seen Goodfellas and The Driver and Heat.
All of those are influences on Baby Driver and while the basic plot is a familiar one, a brooding mute doing “one last job,” Wright breathes new life into such tropes with the inclusion of music.
Very few songs are crowd-pleasers or singles, but rather deep cuts from bands you might not have heard of. Baby has a song and an iPod for every occasion and the constant infusion of music and filmmaking turn Baby Driver into a 2-hour music video.
Ansel Elgort plays Baby. HIs lanky stature and baby-face make him an easy target for the other crew members, particularly with his need to listen to music. This is due to the tinnitus in his ears caused by a car crash when he was a boy. The crew includes Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Baby has to keep his eyes and ears on all of them, but it’s Doc (Kevin Spacey), the leader of the group that has a leash on him.
Baby may be good at his job, but he’s no killer and he hopes to complete enough jobs for Doc to get out and head west with his girlfriend, Debora (Lily James).
At first all of the criminals seem so reckless that you could never imagine how they’ve lasted this long. But Wright fleshes out Hamm and Foxx’s roles to not only provide depth to their characters, but an unpredictability that gives the movie a shot of unease to add to the adrenaline.
By the third act, Baby is not only a great driver, but an amateur parkourist who can leap from buildings and jump over speeding cars. It’s a bit ridiculous but hey, the power of love.
Despite Wright’s great work in film up to this point (Shaun of the Dead Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim), he’s always had a bit of an issue ending his movies. They all have so much energy that by the time they reach their conclusion, there’s nowhere to go but down.
Baby Driver thankfully has moments of restraint throughout including a great scene at a laundry mat between Baby and Debora and Baby’s interactions with his roommate.
These quiet moments increase the stakes in Baby Driver and lead to an exhilarating cat-and-mouse game between Baby and Buddy near the end. Who knew handsome Jon Hamm could be so evil.
It’s been a rough summer at the movies so far and thankfully, Baby Driver is a welcomed remedy. It has the flash and suspense of a Fast & Furious movie and the charm of a La La Land. Forget aliens, pirates and transforming robots and see Edgar Wright’s latest because he deserves our money.