Baby Driver Review: The Ultimate Summer Joy Ride

by Mike Reyes

Somebody better call the folks at Merriam-Webster, because it’s time to update the dictionary. Cool is now spelled “B-A-B-Y.”

Edgar Wright is one of the most important director of modern cinema, and there’s very little room to argue against this fact. His understanding of the movies is so keen that he can always send up a genre while paying tribute to it with a fully functional entry in its canon. But with Baby Driver, he pushes himself to provide more than just another Edgar Wright film. It’s because of this that just might be his best work yet.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) was orphaned at an early age, which left him with two things: a hearing impairment and a life of crime behind the wheel. He’s the best getaway driver in all of Georgia, so if you hear sirens and the squeal of wheels down the streets of Atlanta, it’s probably him. He only does it so he can square away with a local crime boss (Kevin Spacey,) but his debt is almost paid, and someone special (Lily James) has him thinking about a life more ordinary. However, as anyone behind the wheel of a speeding sports car will tell you, the faster you go, the harder it is to stop safely.

If you’re a fan of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, his BBC series Spaced, or even just a real big fan of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, you’ll have no problem latching onto Baby Driver. It was made for you, and you should enjoy it. But what’s particularly extraordinary about this film, especially when compared to the rest of Wright’s canon, is the fact that it’s a film so good, it’s accessible to those who have never seen a Wright film, and don’t have a geeky bone in their body. Despite its Wright-ness, it’s a red blooded heist film that grabs hold in frame one, and doesn’t let go through the various tonal shifts. Yes, it’s still very much a film from the man that brought us Shaun of the Dead, but for every reference there’s a breath of fresh, original air.

It only gets better when you examine the film in the context of its usage of music, as Baby Driver feels like a greatest hits album of Edgar Wright’s work made into one, singularly beautiful film. Part of this is thanks to Wright’s as per usually tight visual and aural sensibilities, as he navigates a twisted labyrinth of action, surprise, and musical bliss with the deftest of hands. Baby Driver has a heart, while also having balls, and it balances the two in such a fashion that it’s hard to separate the two. This film’s gusto is linked to its kindness, and it’s done in such a way that it only works better as a full product. Of course, all of the tracking shots and sick soundtrack beats in the world mean nothing without a proper cast under the hood, and once again Edgar Wright delivers.

The entire ensemble in this film disappears in their roles, with no role wasted to the usual allure of “stunt casting.” It’s often a complaint that when watching a film starring the likes of Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and Jon Hamm that you’d spend the film thinking of those characters by their actor’s names rather than their written names. The complete antithesis is true in Baby Driver, as you’re looking at each of these familiar faces in the context of their characters. Everyone plays their part with conviction, and to be completely honest, this is the most vicious Foxx and Hamm have ever been, the latter of which would be a perfect candidate for a role as a baddie in any future Terminator film. Though that’s not to rob Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx of any steam, as the man is nothing short of sinister in this flick.

But the beating heart that Baby Driver wears on its sleeve is made of two chambers: Ansel Elgort and Lily James. These two are the soul of this film, and their courtship is sweetly authentic, and so delicious to behold. The tragic hero of Baby and the naively innocent, but amazingly sweet Debora mix to create a chemistry set that we rarely see on screen these days. Just as they fall in love with each other, we fall in love with them, which is the cherry on top of this well shot, well designed spectacle.

While Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s most experimental film, it does trip up a little bit in the third act. Without any spoilers, there’s a decision made pretty late in the game that makes sense over time, but will definitely shock the audience expecting something more traditional. It’s not a deal breaker though, just a twist that takes some time to digest, as the entirety of Baby Driver is too good to let something so comparatively small derail its cool. And cool it is, as it’s a film that guns its engines to the red, but never blows a gasket. This is truly one of the best film’s of the summer, and somebody better call the folks at Merriam Webster, because it’s time to update the dictionary. Cool is now spelt, “B-A-B-Y.”

My Rating: 4.5 / 5