-Edgar Wright’s action comedy is the best film of the year so far.
Director Edgar Wright has his own style, and it’s clearly visible in the two hour run-time of Baby Driver, a quickly edited, musically infused car chase film with a heart. Consider the success of the “Cornetto” trilogy, where he used the same two actors (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) throughout three dramatically different comedy scenarios to create a small sequence of films that all have the same backbone, but different look. It’s obvious from the jump that it’s Wright’s personal style, with long takes and music cues edited in with sounds that naturally occur in the movie; the example I think of is Baby putting down coffee cups in rhythm with a song in the background. Fluid editing aside, the strong actors and fun screenplay combine with the great production to result in the year’s first near-perfect movie. Baby Driver is a blast.
Our main character is actually named Baby (Ansel Elgort), an around-twenty getaway driver for local heists. He has tons of driving skill from being raised in the crime circuit, but lives in a small apartment with his godfather Joe (C.J. Jones). Baby has serious tinnitus after a car accident that killed his mother and father as a child. He was soon brought under the wing of the crime kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey), and trained as the getaway driver for his rag-tag groups of robbers and felons. Among them are the much-in-love-but-dangerous Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Monica (Eliza Gonzalez), the lethally insane Bats (Jamie Foxx), and violent Griff (Jon Bernthal). Baby begins bristling at his crime lifestyle when he meets a local waitress Debora (Lily James), who changes his outlook and makes him want to leave the city. However, the more he tries to remove himself from his life of crime, the more Doc and his cronies attempt to swallow him back up.
Although the movie is admittedly thinly plotted, and much more about style over substance, there’s enough substance to tie a loose thread around the plot and make it compact enough to respect, while enjoying the production choices that Edgar Wright makes. The movie is extremely funny, but it’s even more describable as just “fun,” where it’s not that every scene makes you laugh, but rather that every scene has this infectious energy that drives all of the character relationships and plot points. It’s not going to completely stun you with excitement, but rather keep you engaged in a different way, with fast-paced dialogue and likable characters.
The choice of actors is great. Jon Hamm does nicely in his first really positive film exposure since “Mad Men,” but it’s Jamie Foxx that completely steals the show. It’s isn’t necessarily a side of Foxx that you haven’t seen before, but he fits perfectly into this movie and totally steals every scene that he’s in. He conveys menace at the same time as being hilarious, and once he’s introduced about 20 minutes in, the film gets infinitely better. The other real scene-stealer is Lily James, who plays the love interest with a wide-eyed naivete but a succinct courage that appears later in the film. It’s funny that the actors around Elgort, who really anchors the movie, will get all of the credit, but he does a great job in outgrowing any pigeon-holing that occurred after The Fault in Our Stars.
It’s true that we don’t know a ton about each character’s backstory, and it’s true that the romance develops a little quickly, but it’s done for the sake of keeping the pace of this movie consistently quick. That quick pacing is one of the main things to love about the film. There’s enough character development to get by, and the reason that it’s the best film of the year is solely in the comedy, pacing, and wonderful editing that conveys Wright’s style and sense of fun. It’s his best movie, ousting any of the “cornetto” movies, and it surprisingly blends in some decent action with the reckless car chases that permeate the exciting scenes. The car chases are well-made, edited flawlessly, and the film does a lot of practical stunt-driving to make it look pretty damn convincing. This is just a special movie with a true eye for detail, great soundtrack, great performances, and a sense of fun that counts as that “X-factor” in getting the movie from the B+/A- range into something much more special. Go see it, and support an original story like this over something like Transformers 5 or Despicable Me 3.
Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim v the World, The World’s End, Hot Fuzz)
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey
RT Score: 98%