Baby Driver (aka Drive Baby Drive) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Director Edgar Wright had apparently been dreaming of a movie like Baby Driver since the 1990s. What a dream it must have been and all the more fantastic to see come alive on screen. Much like his previous films of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie is a breathing beast of fast-paced thrills with a brain to make it looks like a genius artist delivering powerful brushstrokes at a speed of 125%. His wicked skills of staging the most intense of car chases perfectly synced to some of the greatest music ever made is more than enough to prove he’s one of the greatest directors of the 21st century.
Our hero is known as Baby, a young getaway driver played by a reserved and sweet Ansel Elgort. He doesn’t talk much, preferring to be lost in the music of his MP3 player, even during robberies. Placing the earbuds in his ears and cranking the volume allows him to concentrate enough to perform unbelievable escapes with an automobile, as seen in the film’s dizzyingly brilliant opening chase. He works for the mysterious Doc (Kevin Spacey), trying to repay a debt he owes through robbery jobs. Baby is almost out and has a great life waiting for him with his deaf elderly roommate and a charming waitress (Lily James) that fancies him. But Doc won’t let his star player go so easily.
Baby continues to work the robbery game with a colorful batch of character. Jon Hamm and Eiza González play a criminal couple that has the most history with Baby, able to inform their co-criminals on heists of his tinnitus and music-loving habit. Despite the introduction, the more chaotic Bats (Jamie Foxx) doesn’t trust the kid. Easily threatened and with a short fuse that leads to an itchy trigger finger, Bats is determined to both get back at the silent Baby and make his mark on those he thinks will wrong him. A shootout is not only in his future, but a sure thing for the man who would rather shoot first and never ask questions.
Per Edgar Wright’s style, the film is an expertly edited piece of action filmmaking. Everything from the elaborate car chases to Baby going out for coffee is a well-coordinated ballet tuned to the beat of whatever Baby has on his playlist. As with any heist picture, the crimes grow trickier as Baby’s life spirals out of control and the chases become more intense. And, wow, is it a rush, right up to the thrilling climax where Baby finds himself in a car battle perfectly synced to the melody of Queen.
There’s detail in nearly every frame, to the point where if you look close enough you can notice Wright himself pop into the picture. More than just visuals, I love the little quirks of Baby’s quiet life that seem foreign to others. He makes a point of taping every conversation he has with Doc. This is not because he wants to rat out his employer but because he desperately wants some vocals for his extensive collection of remixes. When Bats calls Baby slow, Doc asks if he was slow during the robbery. Baby runs with that conversation and churns out a remix so damn good it can be heard in its entirety in the end credits. I also dug how the backstory of his parents is slowly revealed in a series of tender and meaningful flashed that wrap so nicely into the story where Baby finds himself fighting for his life and the waitress he loves.
While the film may not have the same geeky zip that Wright is most known for in all his films, it does feature the director at his finest of spectacles with a real flair for music, character, and cars that create a hypnotic swirl of cool. Baby Driver is almost dreamlike in how it relies on mere editing to deliver the most exciting of car chases, far beyond using explosions and over-the-top crashes to be intense. The character all have a believable drive and there’s a genuine spirit of heroism inside Baby that comes out at the most needed of times. Of Hot Fuzz was an ode to action movies that pay homage and winks to the genre, Baby Driver is the real deal, proving that Wright can do more than just gush about thrilling movies, but make them as well. This very well may be the best film he has made, which is saying something for his already robust resume.