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Edgar Wright’s action thriller jukebox musical Baby Driver has an undeniable and irresistible sense of style, a winning personality and a stellar soundtrack – a killer mix of awesome ingredients that definitely elevates the most straightforward plot we’ve seen out of this director.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a ridiculously talented getaway driver who suffers from tinnitus and so constantly listens to music to cope. We see the world through his eyes and definitely his ears – the world tends to aligns itself with the tunes coming from his various iPods, falling in sync with the rhythm. A lot of the tracks are already dangerously catchy and they become even more so when paired with Wright’s highly energetic and meticulous style.
There’s a constant sense of forward momentum. If the characters aren’t moving, running or driving, then it’s the camera that spins and twists all over the place. There’s quite literally never a dull moment and 95% of the time, that breakneck pace works in the movie’s favor, keeping you highly engaged and glued to the screen. Sometimes it gets a bit silly and even distracting, but those moments are few and far between.
Wright’s snappy characterization and the ensemble cast at his disposal turns archetypes into distinct, memorable personalities. The deranged Bats (Jamie Foxx), the imposing crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), the charming, yet dangerous duo of Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González). We’ve seen them before, but Baby Driver makes them feel fresh, exciting and original again.
A lot of that comes from the dialogue, which is endlessly quotable and highly entertaining. Loaded with pop-culture references, full of wit and energy – there’s so much great material here that it’s clear the actors were having just as much fun with it as we are.
Elgort doesn’t really fit the action hero type and that works in his favor. He’s convincing behind the wheel, but a bit awkward anywhere else. He doesn’t quite belong in this world, which is why he’s so anxious to get out of it, especially when he meets the love of his life, Debora (Lily James). The two have wonderful chemistry that makes a relationship built on what is essentially a few dates feel like true love, or at least the Hollywood version of it.
Unlike Wright’s previous work, which has generally been very comedic and subversive, Baby Driver is quite straightforward. There are twists and turns, but they are comfortably within genre expectations – which is actually kind of disappointing. Everything else in the movie is firing on all cylinders, while the plot moves at a fairly standard pace. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not on the same level as the rest of the movie, which ends up holding it back.
Also, there’s a critical lack of Jon Bernthal, who has little more than a cameo appearance. More Bernthal is never a bad thing.
When all is said and done, Baby Driver is not Edgar Wright’s best film, but it does show he is still in fine form. It’s a blast from start to finish that’s well worth watching and supporting. One thing’s for sure – we need more Baby Drivers and less Transformers.