Baby Driver
Car Chase Karaoke

A year before his breakout hit Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, Edgar Wright directed a music video for the group Mint Royale and their song “Blue Song.”  The video featured a getaway driver lip-synching and dancing along with the tunes in his car while waiting for his crew to rob a bank.  With his new film Baby Driver, Wright has taken that brief concept—reenacted in the movie’s opening scene—and turned it into a hip thrill ride of a motion picture that should pump some gas into the summer movie season.

The movie’s getaway driver is named Baby—hence the Simon & Garfunkel-inspired title—a young man who has suffered from tinnitus ever since the car accident that killed his parents when he was a boy.  To drown out the constant ringing in his ears, Baby is always listening to music, whether it played through his iPod’s earbuds, a car stereo, or the record player he has at home.  But he doesn’t just listen to the music, he lives the music.  The music is his attitude.  The rhythm effects the way he walks to the coffee shop, the way he fixes a sandwich, and, most importantly, the way he drives a car.

Ansel Elgort as Baby in Baby DriverAs a teenager, Baby used his driving talents to boost cars, but when he unknowingly stole a car with some pricey valuables in the trunk belonging to a powerful underworld figure, Baby found himself in some hot water.  Recognizing the kid’s talent, the boss decided that instead of punishing the boy he would put him to work for him as a getaway driver, allowing him to pay off his debt one job at a time.  Once the payback is complete, Baby is led to believe that he will be free of any further obligations.  But just when he thinks he is out and can live out a happy life with the pretty waitress he has met, Baby is pulled back in for one more job… a job that is destined to go horribly wrong.

Baby Driver pushes the pedal to the floor immediately and does not let go for nearly two hours.  The opening car chase scene is one of the most exciting in years, featuring some breathtaking car stunts and clever escapes.  And perhaps the best thing about it is that the stunts were done practically and there is not a single moment of obvious computer effects.  Everything we see happen on screen feels genuine and the movie is all the more exciting for it.  From there, the movie transitions into an opening credits sequence that rivals the similar one in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Baby is a fun character from the word go.  When we first see him, he looks as stern a bank robber as the rest of his crew, but once they head into the bank leaving him alone in the car with his tunes, we know immediately that we are in for something unique and special.  We can also easily see right away that even though he has done some bad things and is involved with some bad people, he is a good guy and that makes it easy for us to cheer for him as the movie goes along.

Baby is played by Ansel Elgort and this could serve as a star-making role for him.  He has excellent chemistry with Lily James as the love interest who shares his passion for music.  Proving that the movie’s car chase scenes are not the only ones well choreographed, the two flirt and get to know each other in a terrific scene in a Laundromat as the camera dances around the two characters while they move through the space tethered together by a pair of earbuds.  The movement and colors within the frame turn this seemingly simple scene into something akin to a number from a classic Hollywood musical.

All of the movie’s set pieces, whether they be car chases, shootouts, or the planning of the heist, are rhythmically tied to the music playing on the soundtrack.  Whenever the music is taken away from Baby, it is also taken away from us, and in those moments we feel his pain and discomfort.  It is a terrific device for putting us into the protagonist’s frame of mind.

The balance of the cast features some big names.  Kevin Spacey is the head of the criminal outfit with a main crew made up of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Eiza Gonzalez.  Jon Bernthal and Flea are thrown in for good measure with every member of the cast looking like they are having one heck of a time.

Baby Driver has a lot in common with Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 movie Drive, also about a getaway driver of few words.  Both feature some fantastic car chases and are incredibly stylish films from directors who are clearly in control of their craft, but Baby Driver has something that Drive was missing. Whereas Drive was very serious in tone, Baby Driver has a playfulness to it.  It was clearly designed as an entertainment and it succeeds in being both that and an incredibly impressive work of art.

Baby Driver is rated R for “violence and language throughout.”  There is certainly some colorful language used throughout the movie and the violence really ramps up, especially in the finale.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Baby Driver.