“That’s why they call him Baby. Because they’re still waiting for him to say his first word.”
Baby Driver is full-throttle, peddle-to-the-metal, high-speed musical fun and bliss from writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). If you’re a cinephile and that doesn’t whet your palette, you might want to check for symptoms of dehydration. Especially before it’s too late. I’ll miss you if I don’t hear from you again. An exhilarating, entirely engrossing car chase music video of a feature film, inspired heavily by Wright’s own excellent music video for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song,” it’s a smooth, quick-witted, massively clever and exceptionally entertaining thrill ride brought to the big screen. It’s not incredibly deep, nor is it quite as subversive or inventive as Wright’s past works, but it’s no less cheeky and it’s often just as thrilling and distinctive. With the summer months heating up to ungodly levels, what better way to avoid the deathly rays of the sun than with a massively cool, deeply refreshing theatrical thrill ride from one of the most assured and wickedly delightful filmmakers in the business today? If you’re thirsting for some intoxicating, maddeningly confident cinema in lieu of some dumb, bloated blockbusters and an endless barrage of tedious sequels, Baby Driver is the perfect quench.
Young getaway driver Baby (a fantastically restrained Ansel Elgort) isn’t slow. He doesn’t talk much, due to a traumatic incident in his childhood which left him an orphan with tinnitus, and he often keeps to himself, but when he’s behind the wheel, he’s a demon with dust and destruction left in his wake. After an early incident which found Baby stole the wrong car from the wrong man, Baby has lent his incredible driving skills at the control of Doc (Kevin Spacey), a local crime boss who orchestrates local robberies with perfect precision. Aided by a rotating cycle of wacky criminals, including Buddy (Jon Hamm), Griff (Jon Bernthal), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), to name a handful, Baby is always on call whenever they’re planning their latest heist, but his crime days are numbered. Having paid back Doc after years of service, Baby is ready to enjoy his life without worrying about cops chasing his tail. Hosting feelings for lovely diner waitress Debora (Lily James), Baby is ready to live the straight-and-narrow life, but once you’ve whizzed into the crime world, you never skirt out that easily. Baby, of course, learns that the hard way, but he’s not going to let these criminals dictate him forever, and he’s especially not going to let Debora get hurt. What follows is a mad heist fueled by rocking tunes, fast cars and a seemingly endless supply of gasoline in tow.
Baby Driver is crazy but not chaotic. If anything, it could afford to be even crazier and more manic — and that’s something I don’t find myself saying frequently these days. It’s heartfelt, soulful filmmaking in the purest sense, and even when it doesn’t hold the same thematic weight of his past accomplishments, you walk away with the distinct feeling that you watched an entirely sleek, hyper breezy slice of joyous action-comedy filmmaking. There are few filmmakers with such distinct replayability as Wright, and I’m certainly looking forward to the next time I watch Baby Driver — whenever and wherever that might be. It’s all simply good fun; that’s something you don’t always find at the movies today. It’s very much welcomed.
Frenetic and furiously fast, it borrows from the speed-happy flicks of yore like Bullitt, The Blues Brothers and Thelma and Louise while never losing Wright’s unmistakable touch. The result is wild and wily, though you can’t help but wish it had at least something more to say. Perhaps we’ve simply been spoiled by Wright’s greatness, but one wonders what Baby Driver would’ve been if it had just a little more thematic weight. It’s aggressively energized enough to keep you compulsively glued to the screen, while thankfully never draining your own fuel sources along the way. But there’s just something in particular that’s missing here that keeps the very good Baby Driver from reaching absolute greatness, and I have to believe it’s because it doesn’t have a whole lot to break down or explore in terms of its genre or characters.
It’s simply a highly impressively, deeply passionate piece of pure entertainment, and while that’s certainly enough to warrant multiple tickets being sold, one can’t help but wonder what the more rebellious, telling version of this film would’ve entailed. But no matter. Like I’ve probably said a thousand times by now, Baby Driver is just too enjoyable to ignore. If you find yourself bored by this ride, I’d look up some more medical symptoms. Or just call your doctor. See if he’s free. I’m sure he’d love to see this movie too.
At this point in his career, Wright doesn’t need to prove anything. Yet Baby Driver proves that creatively-fueled filmmaking almost always trumps stuffy corporate mandates. Purely energized, fully automated and never less than electrifying in its death-defying car-based stunts and lightning hot humor, Baby Driver is Wright driving at full speed, never afraid to push himself and his medium along the way. Jump into the passenger seat and buckle your seatbelt in tight. It’s quite a ride.