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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Movie Review: Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s latest is the perfect getaway.


Review by Brandon Wolfe

Baby (Anson Elgort), the protagonist of Edgar Wright’s delightful new film Baby Driver, looks for all intents and purposes like your standard-issue millennial. The disaffected gaze and the earbuds constantly snaking up either side of his head are the major signposts. Yet that descriptor doesn’t suit Baby too well. He shows no discernible interest in any form of social media, for one, and he takes in his beloved tunes through such outdated means as cassette tapes and first-generation clickwheel iPods, without a whiff of hipster irony. Baby also exhibits a unique personality, hovering somewhere between Ferris Bueller “the world is my stage” exuberance and something like mild autism. He’s a true original, a teen character that defies any of the easy pigeonholing that befalls most of his fictional ilk. And that’s before you factor in that the kid is the best getaway driver in the business.

Baby Driver, Wright’s first film since 2013’s sublime The World’s End, is one of the purest cinematic pleasures you will likely experience all year. It’s a film that is resolutely alive, that hums with kinetic drive. Wright always brings a livewire vitality to everything he does, but he reaches a personal pinnacle here. Wright’s filmmaking, his eclectic use of music (via Baby’s constant, often diegetic life-soundtrack), his cast’s all-on-the-table comedic verve, all of it adds up to an experience that energizes you without any cheap tricks or empty spectacle. There will be a Transformers movie playing in the next auditorium over from this film that functions as an aggressive, non-stop barrage of bombastic action sequences set to a cacophony of booms and clanging noises. It’s a dead fish next to this.


Baby is under the reluctant criminal employ of a local Mr. Big called Doc (Kevin Spacey at his Spaciest), who organizes elaborate thefts with a revolving cast of players. Yet Baby is the only constant in Doc’s operation, partly because of his exceptionalism behind the wheel, yet also because Doc sees the kid as something of a good luck charm. Baby’s seeming detachment from his surroundings—always appearing lost in his music, yet still keenly aware of everything around him—places him at odds with the more seasoned and volatile members of Doc’s troupe, like hair-trigger hothead Bats (Jamie Foxx) or the scuzzy, PDA-prone duo of Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez, who was never this good on that terrible From Dusk Till Dawn TV show). These goons wield shotguns and clean out banks, but it’s Baby who can wheel them to safety no matter the circumstances.

Yet Baby wants out of the life, so he can stop disappointing his deaf and disabled foster father Joe (CJ Jones) and finally make something happen with Debora (Lily James), the luminous diner waitress who has caught his eye. And even though Doc promises the proverbial One Last Job, there’s never a true exit strategy when you’re extremely valuable to dangerous people. But when the plans for the latest theft start going off the rails, due to Bats’ instability and fate roping Baby’s personal life into his professional one, Baby is forced to try and extricate himself from his profession for good. Doing so proves as messy as you might expect.


In the unlikely event that Edgar Wright ever chooses to rebrand himself as a franchise director-for-hire, Baby Driver would indicate that he’d do a masterful job with a Fast & Furious sequel. The car sequences in this film have the sort of crackling energy that those films have largely abandoned upon taking on event-movie bloat. It’s not that Wright is necessarily doing things particularly innovative with his chase scenes, but rather how deftly he executes them. The aforementioned soundtrack plays heavily into this. As Baby is almost never separated from his tunes (which isn’t just a character quirk; he’s drowning out the tinnitus he was left with from the car accident that orphaned him years earlier), there is scarcely a scene in Baby Driver that isn’t goosed by great music. We get Beck, Run the Jewels, Young MC, T. Rex, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and, most prominently featured, Queen’s “Brighton Rock.” Wright raiding his iTunes playlists for ammo pays off in glorious ways.

In a summer season where nearly all of the biggest blockbusters are hitting air balls (except for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; speaking of, quick aside, Baby Driver feels almost exactly like an earthbound depiction of Peter Quill: The Yondu Years), Baby Driver feels like a true event movie. Refreshing, original, enthralling, and just brimming with life. Elgort is fantastic in the film (since the Han Solo movie is falling apart, is it too late to get him in there?), abetted by the lovely Lily James, the two of whom combine to create the most genuinely endearing movie romance in ages. The film does fall prey to an ending that feels a bit too pat, too simplistic, but who cares? We’ve already gotten away with plenty of loot by then.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.



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