Baby Driver was the most fun I’ve had in theaters in a while that wasn’t about superheroes or part of a big box office franchise. Edgar Wright totally redeemed himself after The World’s End by stepping back to a reality that is more grounded with Baby Driver and in doing so left his Ice Cream trilogy comedies behind him. This heist film feels like a pivotal point in the writer/director’s career. Wright, ever the master of blending genres and tropes, exceeds at playing with familiar themes and archetypes. He is able to deliver a world that feels true and real. The film hinges on a subdued performance by Ansel Elgort, who plays the titular Baby, and Wright’s ability to capture expert stunts and action on a scale he’s never attempted before.
Ansel Elgort is primarily known for his work in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. Going in to see Baby Driver, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the young leading male, and he blew me away. Ansel’s character, Baby, a getaway driver who is second to none and a man of few words, is instantly loveable and sympathetic. Furthermore, the fact that Baby seldom speaks works really well because Ansel has the acting chops to pull it off. The bulk of the first two acts are spent building his character with little dialogue from Baby, which isn’t missed. In fact, I found myself rooting for Baby from the opening scene. We are introduced to Baby as he pulls up to a bank job, with his ever-present earbuds in and music blasting. As soon as the gunmen exit the car, Baby starts dancing and jamming to a track like a high school senior without a care in the world. It was as charming as the opening dance number that Chris Pratt did in the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy. I was sold.
Baby is a sympathetic character because he is a reluctant criminal being blackmailed to drive for the crime boss, Doc, played by Kevin Spacey. Baby owes Doc a significant amount of money and drives the getaway car to repay his debt. Baby was orphaned in an accident, losing his parents and sustaining permanent inner ear damage. He combats his chronic pain by drowning it out with an endless playlist blasting from his iPod. Baby was raised by his paralyzed and deaf foster-father Joe. Baby and Joe’s bond is the perfect balance of love and respect and the balance strikes the right key. The character is mysterious, charming, tragic, heroic, and simply a badass. The stunt driving was thrilling and I found myself saying “No way!” out loud a couple of times.
My one reservation was whether Wright could pull off directing such integral high-octane practical stunts, and boy was I wrong to have any doubts. The chase scenes were spectacular, as was the rest of the action. Wright proves that he doesn’t need to use CGI as a crutch to deliver exciting and entertaining action. The movie’s pacing was on point; I never felt bored and don’t believe that there was a wasted scene in the entire runtime.
Although they are minor, I did have a couple of complaints worth mentioning. Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey were billed in all the trailers and marketing for Baby Driver, so I expected some great scenes and moments from these two veteran A-listers. Unfortunately, those moments didn’t come. Don’t get me wrong. Both Foxx and Spacey deliver decent performances that work just fine, but nothing more. This gripe is probably just because of my high expectations of their efforts, and they weren’t given too much fat to chew on in terms of dialogue or screen time.
To sum up, how this movie plays, I would say it felt like someone asked Wright to pen and shoot a mashup of Drive and Reservoir Dogs, minus any ear slicing. The movie works, and it’s pure summer cinema fun. I highly recommend this flick to anyone wanting to lose themselves in a thrill ride for a couple of hours. I also need to mention that Jon Hamm did a great job playing Buddy – a hired gunman who partners with his wife on bank jobs to earn money to fund major coke binges. Lastly, I have high hopes for Ansel Elgort and look forward to seeing what kind of career this talented young star builds for himself.
Reel Talk gives Baby Driver 4 Reels