I can imagine the pitch for Baby Driver, ‘It’s a coming of age story about this young guy who’s the best getaway car driver ever – because he has tinnitus and listens to music to drown it out. When he falls in love with a diner waitress, he wants out.’
When you strip Baby Driver down to its most basic, that’s the essence of it. That’s what it comes down to – and it works beautifully.
Baby Driver opens with a heist planned by Doc (Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, The Usual Suspects) and a four-person crew – including baby-faced driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) coming off like clockwork.
Another heist with a new crew – Bats (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained), Eddie (Flea), JD (Lanny Joon) and Baby – does not go as planned, though Baby improvises an escape.
Both heists planning sessions and heists play out, beat for beat, to the music we are hearing (and that Baby is playing on his iPod). In fact, every beat of the movie is matched to a beat of music – making Baby Driver both one exhilarating ride and an unorthodox movie musical. The music is a character in – and the spine of the film.
We learn more about Baby when we see Doc parcel out his share in front of each crew and then take all but a little of the cash in private – backstory that’s filled in as we go.
The reason for Baby’s constant listening to music is also explained – by Doc – early one.
One thing that Doc couldn’t have planned for, though, is that Baby would fall in love with Debora (Lily James, Cinderella).
Another is that his third crew – Buddy (Jon Hamm, Childrens Hospital, Unbeakable Kimmy Schmidt), Darling (Eiza González, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series) and Bats – would so completely self-destruct.
Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is an experience film – flaws (like the multiple endings – earned though they might be) do not matter.
What matters is the ride and – with the entire film synced to an unusual range of music (from rap and classic rock to Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance) beat for beat – there is an undercurrent of adrenaline generated even in the quieter moments.
Then there’s the cast – even minor characters like Flea’s Eddie (who buys the wrong masks for the heist) feel alive and real; and Jon Hamm’s Buddy takes him so far from Don Draper that you won’t believe your eyes and ears.
Eiza González matches well with Buddy – her Darling (real name Monica) is as quietly nuts as he is obviously unhinged. Between them, they make Bats – whose whole life seems to be based on being off his rocker, look like a nervous little kid.
Spacey, though, does something special that only he seems able to do consistently: he manages to make underplaying Doc feel like he’s going over the top. It’s a performance that is matched by Elgort’s stoicism as Baby – who drives like a demon, but cares for his foster father like one of God’s own angels.
Every summer there’s one movie that becomes the movie of summer – one unique film that does something unexpected and fresh and becomes the movie everyone talks about (think Guardians of the Galaxy as one example).
This year’s movie of the summer might just be Edgar Wright’s ferocious ride, Baby Driver.
Final Grade: A+