I’m a huge fan of director Edgar Wright, known for his films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (just to name a few). His newest film Baby Driver looked like an adrenaline-filled music video, so I was super intrigued. Did it succeed?
Our title character Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) is a driver, pulling off heists to make up for something he stole from Doc (Kevin Spacey). These crews rotate characters, including Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Lanny Joon, and Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers). He meets an intriguing waitress named named Debora (Lily James) and he takes care of his elderly and deaf foster father (CJ Jones).
Baby’s parents were killed in an accident when he was young, leaving him with a ringing in his ears, so he constantly plays music, meaning that this entire movie has an almost-nonstop soundtrack.
Exactly as intended, this movie feels like a music video and the first half of the movie especially feels energetic and unique. Ansel Elgort is perfect as the lead, even with choreography as he lives a normal day to a soundtrack only he can hear. He’ll even sing along, adding a humor and charm.
At its foundation, this movie is a heist film and there are essentially three big setpieces that we watch, each one gripping and unpredictable. The stunts are great yet believable.
The supporting actors all do their best with the screentime given, though some characters are more like glorified cameos (Jon Bernthal especially, who feels underutilized). Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx give the best performances, both unlike anything else I’ve seen them do, resulting in violent and scary antics from both of them. Kevin Spacey is fine but he’s exactly the same Kevin Spacey we’ve seen in most of his recent outings, so it’s not quite as impressive.
What doesn’t work?
The first half, which is vibrant and light and fun, devolves into a second half that is strictly action and a heist movie, which all feels familiar and it loses that uniqueness that we were all hoping for. It’s good still, but it loses the magic about halfway through.
I also couldn’t quite believe the love story. Lily James was fine, but the conceit that Baby would all of a sudden risk his life for this (essentially) stranger didn’t quite ring true.
Baby Driver is fun and unique at first, feeling very much like an Edgar Wright movie, however it becomes much more standard fare about halfway in. The movie is anchored by Elgort’s charming performance and some unique turns by Hamm and Foxx. Worth watching but it falls below the bar set high by Wright’s other films.