A new Edgar Wright movie is always a joy. The man behind Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Versus The World (and most of Ant Man) has a snappy visual flair that makes watching his movies a feast for the eyes, and Baby Driver is no exception.
Getaway driver ‘Baby’ is ridiculously skilled. He skids and swerves away from all obstacles, and as such has helped many a criminal enterprise succeed. Mastermind ‘Doc’ (Kevin Spacey) thinks up the hits and uses a different team each time…except for his lucky charm, Baby. But Baby (Ansel Elgort) has no choice, he owes Doc money due to mistakenly stealing his car years ago and so is forced to work in order to pay off the debt. Things go south once he realises he can’t escape Doc’s clutches. And the latest team includes the psychotic ‘Bats’ (Jamie Foxx) who beats or kills everyone he meets.
Baby Driver was a passion project for Wright and had been in gestation for some time. After leaving Ant Man due to the old ‘creative differences’ he got to work on bringing his crime caper/music video movie to the screen. That’s the big hook of Baby Driver. As well as super stylish editing and ‘all in one take’ shots, the soundtrack not only sets the tempo of the movie, it synchronises with it perfectly.
Curated tracks are woven into action sequences so that each bang of the drum or vocal tick is synonymous with bullets being fired or cars crashing.
There is a plot reason for this. Baby has tinnitus and drowns it out with constant music. But regardless of framing you’ve never seen a shootout until you’ve seen one synched up perfectly with ‘Tequila’ by The Champs!
So that’s a massive tick for action and style. What about plot and character? These are a bit weaker. Elgort plays Baby with wonderful presence, whether it miming lyrics to radio songs, screeching around corners, or becoming infatuated with waitress Deborah. However, Baby Driver represents Wrights first solo writing credit (he co-wrote the scripts for his other movies). And whether it’s this factor or a stylistic choice, most characters other than Baby are larger than life one-note affairs.
For the men this is fine. Foxx as the swivel-eyed Bats provides some narrative driving menace. Buddy (Jon Hamm) brings a Steve McQueen style classic crime caper self-confidence. But the women do suffer. Darling is the Bonnie to Buddy’s Clyde and slots into that alone.
But woefully underwritten is Debora (Lily James). She exists to entrance Baby, be protected from harm, and thus drive forward the plot for the second half of the movie. Sure James gives her plenty of southern charm and the scenes between her and Baby have a 50s diner love affair feel which is very classic movie. But she has no background and no influence over her own destiny. It’s a shame that Wright couldn’t really shake off the ‘perfect pixie girl’ image for her.
That said, these are minor gripes. There are precious few directors who develop a following strong enough that people go to see a movie not necessarily because of the stars, or even the plot, but because it’s the new ‘X’ movie. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson have iconic style and they get sold on this hook.
Edgar Wright is a movie maker who imbues his films with so much grin-inducing fun that I’d always want to watch them. Baby Driver is just that, fun. And cool. And so chock full of fun detail for the eyes that it has enormous rewatch value. Buckle up, crank the volume on Queen’s ‘Brighton Rock’, and let the movie burn donuts into your head.
Words by Michael Record