Writer-director Edgar Wright has shown his affection for genre filmmaking by doing everything from the beloved Cornetto trilogy (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “The World’s End”) to the equally beloved “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” and now it looks like he has another for his dedicated fans to gush over, with the thrilling heist movie “Baby Driver” (in theaters on Wednesday).
Using a mix of incredible needle-drops, insane car chases, pitch-perfect performances, and a stellar script, Wright’s latest is a summer release that finally lives up to the hype.
The story revolves around a twentysomething named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who can basically do anything he wants in a car, as long as he’s got his tunes playing on his iPod. With that skill set, Baby is a getaway driver for a crew of bank robbers in Atlanta. Wright gets right into the action from the start, showing Baby’s moves as he escapes the police following his team’s robbery, headed by Buddy (Jon Hamm).
Baby gets everyone back to the safe house where we meet the brains of the operation, Doc (Kevin Spacey). And we quickly realize Doc has been forcing Baby to do jobs for him since Baby tried to rob him. Doc tells Baby he’s got one more job to do and then they are square.
Baby goes back to his life until called upon. During his break between heists he falls for a diner waitress, Debora (Lily James). Through that relationship, we learn a little more about Baby: his parents died in an auto accident (he was in the car, too), which still haunts Baby, and he listens to music constantly to help his permanent tinnitus.
Doc eventually calls and Baby is back on the job, this time working with the crazed Bats (Jamie Foxx). Once more, Baby has to go on a bonkers car chase to flee the scene. But when he gets back to the safehouse, Doc gives Baby a reality check – he will always be his wheel man.
This leads to the final job, one that involves Buddy, Bats, Doc, and even Debora, who gets roped in.
Wright delivers a story with little dead spots and great dialogue for Foxx, Hamm, and Spacey to shine. And the visuals by legendary cinematographer Bill Pope just add to the enjoyment.
One scene that stood out for me wasn’t one of the chases, but the beginning of the movie when Baby goes to get the robbers coffee. All shot in one take, the choreographed sequence has Elgort gracefully weaving down the street to the beat of the song, at one time even imitating a trumpet player during the song’s solo when he’s next to a music shop that has a trumpet hanging in the storefront window. Pope also moves the camera to lyrics that show up on the sidewalk and telephone poles.
Elgort plays the character of Baby similar to Ryan Gosling in “Drive” (which director Nicolas Winding Refn took from Ryan O’Neal in Walter Hill’s 1978 classic, “The Driver”) – quiet and methodical – which is good because there are some instances when Elgort has to do some heavy acting and comes off a little green. But Foxx, Hamm, and Spacey pick up the slack.
“Baby Driver” has been a passion project of Wright’s for years and it certainly shows. There are some movies where you can see the care put into it, and this movie has it. From the sound editing that has almost every movement and gunshot in sync to the music, to the meticulous song choices (tracks by The Beach Boys, Beck, T. Rex, and The Commodores are just a few featured), Wright has made a movie that showcases his incredible moviemaking talents and should be instantly included in the conversation with the best car chase/heist movies of all time.