Suffering a rather merciless relationship breakdown with Marvel over superhero heist flick Ant-Man, Baby Driver writer/director Edgar Wright has dusted himself off and released a refreshing action-comedy-heist movie minus the spandex and with a soundtrack so killer it ought to be convicted with no trial.
From the electrifying opening scene set to the thumping anthem ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, it’s immediately evident that the music is a lead character along with the titular Baby of the title – a star making turn by Ansel Elgort – each scene perfectly paired with a tune from Baby’s eclectic and vast collection.
Baby is a young getaway driver, working for crime kingpin, Doc (Kevin Spacey) in order to pay off a hefty debt and he’s a demon behind the wheel. Operating behind an endless selection of sunglasses and with the perfect song cued up on one of his many iPod’s, Baby is insular and near wordless, prompting bank robber Griff (Jon Bernthal) to question if the preternaturally talented driver is mentally retarded. Despite his permanently inserted ear buds, Baby hears all and understands all, but requires the tunes in his ears to drown out the constant high pitched ring of chronic tinnitus – sustained in a fatal car accident that robbed him of his parents.
Living with his elderly, deaf foster father, Joe (CJ Jones), Baby appears directionless - despite showing some talent mixing his own music at home, looping in recorded snatches of conversations he’s had with Doc and his assortment of tattooed robbers - until he meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress who seems to share his free-spirited nature and love of music. What follows is a sweet and tentative love story set amongst the carnage of Baby’s other life as he vows to pull off one last job for Doc, who is menacingly reluctant to award freedom to his erstwhile driver and perceived good luck charm, and drive off into the sunset with his kindred spirit.
It’s here that Baby lives up to his name, his naivety and innocence writ across his face as he dreams of escape with no real plan for the future. It’s what sets movie heroes apart from the rest of us, whereby they possess no life plan beyond heading out onto the open road. It’s a romantic notion and one that holds endless appeal to an audience increasingly beaten down by life’s pesky responsibilities. Add the rather thrilling criminal element and it’s the stuff movie dreams are made of. That is until the reality of what he is part of finally comes home to Baby and he sees first-hand the violence and destruction the criminals he works with leave behind.
Jamie Foxx as the unhinged and appropriately monikered Bats has a blast bitching and spewing rat-a-tat-tat Tarantino-esque dialogue while Jon Hamm has fun with his tough but reasonable (up to a point) hard man, Buddy. James is suitably sweet and girl next door-ish, ensuring the romance between Debora and Baby is one to root for. As for Elgort this is the role he’s been waiting for, the one to elevate him from mildly nondescript teen heartthrob to serious leading man contender and he grabs the opportunity with both hands making Baby endearing and well meaning.
But the real stars of the piece are Wright’s choice of songs and the inventively choreographed car chases. A perfect marriage of action and tunes, the audience cannot help but feel pure elation when the likes of Young MC, Queen and Golden Earring are set to squealing tires and Sky Ferreira’s (she crops up in flashback as Baby’s dearly departed mum) gorgeously dreamy, breathless version of The Commodores classic, ‘Easy’, is sunshine and sadness in equal measure.
While Baby Driver will likely be accused by some of being somewhat pleased with itself it has every right to pat itself on the back, turning a simple heist movie into 2 hours of foot-tapping joy. Dig out that iPod Classic and turn it up to 11, this is one Baby that nobody is putting in the corner.