BABY DRIVER (9.5 out of 10) Written and Directed by Edgar Wright; Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez and Lily James; Rated R for violence and language throughout; Running time 113 minutes; In wide release June 28, 2017.
Let’s admit up front that Baby Driver is not the best name for a movie, because most people have no idea what it’s about. A quick trip to the internet will sort all this out, but that’s a step some will never take, so they might skip out on it. And that would be a complete shame because Baby Driver is easily Edgar Wright’s best film and one of the best of the year.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been boosting cars since he was a kid, and he’s also the best getaway driver on the market. Due to a car accident that took his family from him, he has tinnitus and is constantly listening to music to drown out the ringing in his ears and to focus on his driving when fleeing the cops. He’s been forced to work for a local crime lord, Doc (Kevin Spacey), to pay off a debt he incurred long ago and only has a few more jobs left until his account will be settled. To get through it though, he’ll have to survive his fellow crew members, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), the latter of whom is mentally unbalanced and doesn’t trust Baby one bit. But if he can stick it out, he’ll be set for life, and he and his diner waitress girlfriend, Debora (Lily James), can put it all behind them and hit the road for good.
From a purely technical standpoint, it’s a near masterpiece. It’s easy to see how Edgar Wright has taken everything he learned from the Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim and used those skills in ways that are nearly jaw-dropping. The script is whip-smart, funny and engaging, which means the characters are fleshed out and given story arcs that allow the audience to genuinely cheer or revile them. The cinematography is some of the best since Drive, and the way the sound is mixed will make people truly feel as if they are in the getaway car as well.
It’s also clear when the actors are having fun in their roles, and filming must have been a blast. Ansel Elgort easily handles his leading-man status and somehow manages to command attention while being soft spoken. This sounds like an oxymoron, but he pulls it off, and it needs to be seen to fully comprehend. The trailers make Kevin Spacey seem somewhat one note, but he gives a nuanced performance that slightly channels his Frank Underwood from House of Cards. Eiza Gonzalez is dangerous, sexy and a complete bad ass, and Jon Hamm as her husband, is intense and driven. Jamie Foxx gets to be the unhinged wildcard whose actions constantly throw twists and turns into the story.
Lastly, one of the most important cast members is the soundtrack. Consisting of whatever Baby is listening to on his headphones, we are treated to a variety of music from mainstream and offbeat artists spanning decades. While Guardians 2 had plenty of songs that were intrinsically tied to the scenes they were a part of, some did feel a little shoehorned. Meanwhile, every track in Baby Driver enhances the mood and sets the tone for what is happening on screen.
Baby Driver is nearly a perfect film and one that everyone, not just Edgar Wright fans should be racing out to see. There are a few flaws towards the end, and it was disappointing that Lily James was just there to be Baby’s girlfriend. Quibbles aside, this is still the best movie of the summer so far and easily in my top five for the year. For something so unexpected, it certainly ended up being a welcome surprise. Forget that anything else exists and go give this your love!
9.5 out of 10