Baby Driver marks Edgar Wright’s fifth cinematic outing as a director, and it’s arguably his best feature film to date.
At first glance, and based on what the trailers show you, Baby Driver is a simple film. And, to be fair, it really is. The film follows Baby, a young getaway driver for a crew of unsympathetic thieves and murderers, and his quest to end his career as a driver. But once the film actually begins, you really realize that the brilliance of this movie has been drastically undersold.
Story wise, Wright tells the story of Baby wonderfully. Baby quickly becomes a sympathetic character, and one immediately finds themselves rooting for Baby for the whole movie from start to finish. The characters are witty when they need to be, and not once does a piece of dialogue ever feel out of place. The characters are also extremely complex. The evolution of certain characters, particularly the ones played by Kevin Spacey and John Hamm, from start to finish is a testament to the brilliance of Edgar Wright. That the characters change and grow (or in some instances deteriorate) through the whole film feels surprising at times but never out of place or forced. This shows just how well Wright has crafted these characters and gotten into their psyches to make their behaviors seem exciting but natural at the same time. The plot moves at a constantly exhilarating pace and not once does one find oneself bored in the middle of viewing this film. (This is also due in large part to Wright’s directing, but more on that in a bit.)
The performances from the cast members are, for the most part, phenomenal. Kevin Spacey’s performance as Doc, Baby’s “boss”, is outstandingly dry and nearly emotionless, but he still has a few emotional scenes and, as mentioned before, scenes that really build his character and change it in an exciting but natural way. Jamie Foxx’s performance is almost frightening at times, as he plays Bats: a hardened criminal who feels just as unpredictablely nutty as he does terrifyingly dangerous. Ansel Elgort completely strays away from his previous roles in cinematic adaptations of YA novels but delivers what is perhaps the greatest performance of his career so far. His performance as Baby makes you feel sympathetic for the title character, even when his decisions are not always the right ones. Some of the best scenes in the movie come when Baby is simply alone listening or lip-syncing to his music, and you can tell that Elgort is having massive fun in each of those scenes. But what is perhaps the greatest performance in Baby Driver is that of Jon Hamm as Buddy. At the start of the film, Buddy is a character who, like the audience, feels almost sympathetic to Baby. At one point he even bonds with Baby over their love for music, only to later completely turn on Baby by the end of the film, and reveal himself to be a nasty, unsympathetic character, almost the complete opposite of Baby. Hamm’s performance as Buddy is not only a testament to how good of a writer/director Wright is, but also to how great of an actor Jon Hamm is.
Though the cast was wonderful and the story was great, what really shines through about Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s direction. Wright is commonly known as being a visionary director, but his work on Baby Driver shines above anything else he’s ever done. As you’ve probably heard by now either from social media or from the film’s marketing campaign, Baby Driver is set entirely to the music that Baby listens to while he drives. But just saying that is a complete understatement. Not only is the film set to his music, but every scene is completely choreographed to the music as well. There are entire fight sequences which feature fights that you would expect from an R-rated heist movie, but are made 10 times better because they are completely choreographed to the song playing in the background. Not once does a character so much as move outside of the beat of the song. At the start of the film also, as Baby is walking down the street with his headphones in, the lyrics of the song he is listening to are graffitied onto parts of the street, light posts and buildings, and Baby walks past each of them perfectly as the lyrics play. Having the actions of the characters match up perfectly with the rhythms and beats of the song turns what would initially feel like a messy fight into an interesting and viscous sequence. This may be the most ambitious thing that Wright has done in a film period, and this films is where his true directorial brilliance is illuminated.
If there are two things that Baby Driver is, it’s ambitious and cohesive. The story is solid; the performances delivered by the cast are each individually interesting; the direction is a true work of genius.
Baby Driver is rated R and is in theaters now.
Slant Rating: 9/10- See it in theaters NOW.