Fast cars, terrific writing, solid acting performances and a killer soundtrack help make “Baby Driver” one of the year’s two or three best films so far.
Director Edgar Wright’s latest movie pays homage to early Quentin Tarantino action/adventure films like “Pulp Fiction” and “True Romance,” but it’s also one of the most original films you’ll find on the big screen in several years.
The premise feels pretty straight-forward. A young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) grinds his way through a life of crime only to fall in love with a pretty diner waitress (Lily James) who makes Baby want to leave the criminal life behind for good.
“Baby Driver” cruises along at a brisk pace as Baby and his boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), execute a number of heists, but nothing ever feels rushed. The movie runs at a steady 75 mph whereas other recent, more formulaic action movies have a herky-jerky 90 mph, 20 mph, 95 mph roller coaster feel.
A smooth cinematic adventure, “Baby Driver” is the kind of film you’re going to want to watch over and over again.
While viewers follow Baby everywhere from start to finish, Elgort does a great job of not over-playing the role of Baby and letting things flow naturally. At first glance, much of Elgort’s performance feels like it comes as an extension of his theatrical movement. But the true heart of his work comes in the subtle nature of how Elgort changes his inflection slightly to evoke emotion in a relatively monotone character. The look in his eyes often matches this subtle vocal change in a beautiful, emotional way.
Academy Award winner Spacey is well-suited for the role of crime planner Doc, a part that could have easily gone to Christopher Walken or Jack Nicholson 15 years ago. Spacey fits the role like a glove just like those great actors would have in a solid, unspectacular supporting performances that helps elevate the entire film.
Jamie Foxx’s brash, unfiltered performances as take-no-prisoners thief Bats is as loud and in your face as the Michael Jackson-era red leather jacket Foxx sports throughout the latter half of “Baby Driver.” It’s a part Foxx has played before and feels that way on screen, but his Bats works in the larger context of the crews Doc assembles because the performances around Fox allow him to make broad choices with Bats.
The film is rounded out with a terrific supporting cast including Jon Bernthal as the intimidating gun-toting muscle, Jon Hamm and Eiza González as a couple who get their thrills pulling heists together and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea as an injury prone robber called “No Nose.”
Action movies nowadays rely so heavily on explosions, limitless gunfire and stunt work that it all seems to blend together.
Wright takes great care to ensure that, while the visuals are modern technically, every car chase and gun battle also feels ripped out of another era. Baby whipping a variety of cars across Atlanta with ultimate precision harkens back to films like “Bullitt” and “The French Connection.” It’s almost as if Wright hasn’t seen an action movie made before 1996, which is incredibly refreshing both tonally and visually.
Key to the success of “Baby Driver” is Wright’s expert integration of the film’s soundtrack into the story. It’s used both in character development – Baby drowns out the constant ringing in his ears by listening to music – and seeps its way into each and every scene better than any movie has done this decade.
The “Guardians of the Galaxy” films are often heralded for their amazing use of music, but those superhero movies can’t hold a candle to “Baby Driver.” The film’s opening heist sequence is expertly choreographed like a dance to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song “Bellbottoms,” Then Wright effortlessly flows into a wonderfully nuanced, timed to the split-second scene as Baby glides across downtown Atlanta while jamming out to “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl.
Perhaps the most original film to come on the screen so far in 2017, “Baby Driver” is a can’t miss event movie that’s immensely refreshing given Hollywood’s sequel-heavy film slate.
“Baby Driver” is a stunning reimagining of classic 60s heist films meshed with 90s cinema flare.
Infused with practical, yet picturesque car chase sequences, the film is a perfect blend of yesteryear and modern era movie-making that has to be seen in theaters.