Every once in awhile, an original film rises among the huge field of sequels, remakes, and adaptations that just can’t help but capture audiences through pure creativity and quality film-making. Enter Baby Driver, the latest from popular auteur director Edgar Wright. Wright, known for his quirky and irreverent comedies such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, has been conceptualizing and perfecting the genius idea for Baby Driver since the 1990s. The end result is a near masterpiece that manages to stand out as Wright’s crowning achievement in one of the best filmographies in recent years.
Baby Driver focuses on Baby (Ansel Elgort), an insanely good driver working as a getaway for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), to whom he has been indebted to since he was young. Baby is often doubted by Doc’s wide array of criminals, including Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm), and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), for his multiple quirks, such as always listening to headphones when he drives, but he always completes the job successfully. After wrapping up his debt, Baby hopes to set off for a new life with cute waitress Debora (Lily James), but Doc has other plans in mind, and Baby isn’t going to stand for it.
Edgar Wright has always been an eccentric filmmaker, but he reaches a peak with Baby Driver, a film almost as quirky as its title character. It’s a genius blend of heist thriller, comedy, and, of all things, musical. Wright geniusly sets the entire film beat-by-beat to a soundtrack. The rhythm of whatever song is playing through Baby’s headphones is the rhythm for whatever is happening on the screen at the time. Cuts are smooth and perfectly timed with the soundtrack to create a unique audio-visual experience. It’s beyond masterful direction and editing work that basically secures Wright as one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation. And the soundtrack itself is enough to match Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Awesome Mixes.
Carrying all of this eccentricity on his shoulders is young Elgort. Before now, he has mostly been known for his roles in Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, neither of which showed any indication of him being a capable action star. Yet, in Baby Driver, he holds all of the action scenes together with his steely face, fast reflexes, and complete commitment to every piece of the choreography. Baby is a shy character, so he doesn’t say too much, but Elgort’s faces say more than words could, and he perfectly sells all of the character’s quirks and makes you really care for him as his backstory is revealed. Ansel Elgort is Baby.
The other characters aren’t quite as great, but are still more than welcome. We meet no less than six of Doc’s criminals, and they all have at least one truly entertaining scene. Coming out on top though is Jamie Foxx. Foxx’s character Bats gets his name from the fact that he is bat-shit insane. He’s disturbingly homicidal, but very quiet about it, and Foxx pulls it off spectacularly. Kevin Spacey and Lily James are great in their roles, but the characters of Doc and Debora are both a little underdeveloped. They each make pivotal decisions towards the end of the film that feel distractingly out-of-character from what we had previously seen from them, and we have no idea what it was that brought Baby and Doc together in the first place.
Speaking of the end, it’s definitely the weakest part of the film. It becomes a little too over-the-top, but goes about it in a very generic way that we’ve seen many times before (and at least once earlier this year). That said, the action scenes throughout the film are shot brilliantly and are incredibly entertaining, so you’ll probably still get a lot of enjoyment out of the end. Baby Driver pretty much hits the trifecta of what makes a good movie: well-made, emotionally engaging, and entertaining. There aren’t enough films out there like it, but that’s part of what makes it such a breath of fresh air.