Baby Driver, writer and director Edgar Wright’s first film since capping off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with The World’s End, combines elements from the width and breadth (thriller, musical, comedy) to deliver one of the most original, thrilling and – oddly enough – romantic films of the year.
Fault in Our Stars breakout Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a young maestro behind the wheel who operates as an on-call escape driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). It’s not a life that he wants, but as he owes a debt to Doc, there’s no other option than to do as he’s told or risk the consequences. When not helping crooks flee robberies, Baby spends his time building songs around vocal recordings and hanging out in a local diner, where he meets – and almost immediately falls in love with – Deborah (Lily James), a waitress who shares his passion for music.
Baby can’t function without one of his many iPods, music blasting in his ear to drown out the tinnitus he suffers from as a result of a deadly car accident that killed his parents. His dream is for them to hop in a car and drive away from their lives – that’s if he can stay alive long enough for that to happen. Living and breathing music, Baby Driver pops with vigour, with a soundtrack like no other and action sequences that are choreographed like an elegant, staggering dance that never ceases to amaze.
The script is well-paced and packed with twists and turns that offers little in the way of respites to the beautiful mayhem. The characters, too, are wonderfully realised through the performances from the entire cast, each making a big impression no matter how long they’re on screen. Elgort is without a doubt the strongest, commanding the screen from start to end. Whether using his winning smile to charm the socks of Deborah, or the brief moments of remorse that flash across his face when he’s put into one dangerous, regrettable situation after another. He’s fantastic, and ably supported by the likes of Spacey, Jon Hamm and Collins, who remains present in the audiences mind even when she’s nowhere to be seen.
It’s a real treat to see such a fantastic cast bounce off one another like they do here. Wright, as ever, has fun with the dialogue, this time making it almost poetic, as the actors recite lyrics, sing and nail pop-culture references that will bring a smile to everyone’s face. Wright may have had a difficult run of it with Ant-Man not quite working out the way he’d planned, but it may have been a blessing in disguise. What he’s done instead is craft an original piece of cinema that, while not perfect (the narrative lulls a bit as it passes the halfway mark and the tonal meshing falls apart a bit by the end), certainly propels him back into the fore as a voice and eye that modern-day cinema cannot do without.
Jamie Neish | @JamieNeish