Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) shifts the summer box office into fifth gear with Baby Driver, a turbo-charged action flick that runs like a two hour music video. Star Ansel Elgort (Carrie, The Fault in Our Stars) breaks out from his teeny bopper past with high-octane gusto. He emerges as a bonafide leading man. Not too shabby in a film with heavyweight actors like Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm. I got a bit tired of the frenetic camera work, but a minor critique as Baby Driver dazzles with energy and creativity.
The film takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. A cherub faced getaway driver, codenamed Baby (Ansel Elgort), works at the beck and call of a ruthless crime boss (Kevin Spacey). Afflicted with tinnitus after a childhood accident, Baby rarely speaks and wears headphones to drown out the ringing. He ferrets ruthless gangsters from their high stakes robberies with ease; shredding cop cars and leaving helicopters in the dust.
Baby's dangerous world of heists and slamming beats gets an unexpected hiccup. He becomes enamored with Deborah (Lily James), a gorgeous waitress at his favorite diner. Baby can see an endgame to his life as a driver, but his compatriots will never let him escape. This is especially true now that a psychopath called Bats (Jamie Foxx) has joined the crew.
Baby Driver is an editing tour de force. Edgar Wright uses every camera trick to weave Baby's chaotic story. We get insane car chases that include quick cuts from every angle. But there's also super long tracking shots of Baby ambling around the city, dancing and grooving as he goes about his day. The film mostly has a rollercoaster pace, but slows down at key points to reinforce the script. The camera's gaze lingers on Lilly James as Baby falls in love. Wright also gives ample time for his talented cast to hash out their schemes and establish personalities. Wright had a clear vision for Baby Driver and it's evident in his brilliant filmmaking technique.
Baby Driver had me constantly comparing it to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. The premise is similar, but the execution is completely different. Drive is artsy, slow, and melodic; whereas Baby Driver is a nonstop cavalcade of stimuli. Both films are tremendously entertaining, but Baby Driver has a wider commercial appeal. The slick delivery is perfect for the ADD, Ritalin and meth fueled world of millennials. Baby Driver is not subtle on any level.
The hype surrounding Baby Driver had me chomping at the bit since its premiere at SXSW. It didn't live up to every expectation, but is certainly a fun film and highly recommended. Edgar Wright has no lack of flair. His films are always full of interesting characters. Kudos for his excellent casting here. Ansel Elgort has the boyish charm and tough guy chops to make Baby a popcorn hero. This is also the best we've seen from Jamie Foxx since Django Unchained. From TriStar Pictures, strap yourselves in for Baby Driver. It's an ass-kicking ride from the first frame to the last.