Jaw-dropping in its complexities, "Baby Driver" is the coolest heist film in decades. Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, the getaway driver for a mean SOB, Doc (Kevin Spacey), who plans robberies to the second and never uses the same crew twice in a row.
Baby was in a terrible car accident and suffers from tinnitus. He deals with the incessant buzzing in is ears, a side effect of his affliction, by constantly having ear buds in his ears playing a hugely wide variety of music from the iPods he's stolen. Just about every minute of his life is timed to a specific song, especially when he's driving the crew away from the scene of their crime. His tunes are so well-timed that after one particular job, he makes everyone wait until he restarts his playlist, as the police are bearing down on them.
Doc has an elite set of crooks with whom he works. Buddy (Jon Hamm) is a Wall Street trader turned criminal after a few bad investments put him in debt. His squeeze, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), is gorgeous but as dangerous as the rest. Then there's Bats (Jamie Foxx), who is equally crazy and does not trust Baby.
He can't square that this baby-faced kid, who always has music playing in his ears and never talks, can possibly be dependable --- and as good at his job as Doc claims. It is Bats who causes the chink in the armor of Doc's perfect plans, putting the entire operation in jeopardy.
Baby lives with his deaf foster father, Joe (CJ Jones, a deaf stand-up comedian in real life), consequently he has mastered signing and reading lips. Joe is fervently against Baby's current career choice, and Baby has promised to quit. He "owes" Doc one more job as payback for a stupid teenage mistake.
And Baby has another reason to end his work relationship with Doc --- a beautiful, sweet doe-eyed waitress at Bo's Diner, where his mother used to work. Her name is Debora (Lily James) and she is hankering to get out of Dodge --- Atlanta --- and hit the road with Baby. But these plans rarely run smoothly, and Baby is drawn into this deadly mix for one last heist before he and Debora can leave for good.
Writer, director, executive producer Edgar Wright has an impressive resume. A long-time collaborator with Simon Pegg, with whom he has co-written such brilliant screenplays as "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End", all of which he directed, Wright has had the idea for "Baby Driver" in his head for years. He and Elgort bonded over their passion for music, with Wright recognizing immediately that Elgort would be perfect as Baby.
"Baby Driver" is a crowning achievement for Wright and his steadfast crew. Director of photography Bill Pope, editor Paul Machliss, production designer Marcus Rowland and composer Steven Price are all frequent members of Wright's teams. Their attention to detail is unsurpassed, which makes "Baby Driver" the thrill that it is.
But it is the choreography that sets "Baby Driver" apart. Every single movement in this movie is set to music --- down to the windshield wipers of Baby's getaway cars. Choreographer Ryan Heffington had his job cut out for him, incorporating Wright's chosen playlist of over 30 songs by artists as varied as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.
Never before has an action thriller been this well executed or wildly entertaining. David remarked leaving the theater that he thought Hamm's character, Buddy, had more lives than a cat. I told him to shut up and just appreciate the utter brilliance of Wright's creation.
The script is incredibly well written and Wright's cast is fantastic. Every choice he made, starting with Elgort, is flat-out perfect. Elgort looks exactly like a "Baby", and his chemistry with James is undeniably believable. They make a darling couple and we root passionately for them to get away. She's as lovely and enchanting here as she was in "Cinderella" (2015) and "Downton Abbey".
Spacey, Hamm, Foxx and Gonzalez have put their stamp on the bad guy/gal roles. I happen to love nasty criminals --- insane car chases, et al. What I don't like are characters who talk too much before they shoot. Trust me, "Baby Driver" has none of that.
"Baby Driver" is getting a great deal of hype --- deservedly so. It's a completely unique experience, one that I may just have to see again.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
One of Simon and Garfunkle's absolutely best tunes is "Baby Driver", but you'll have to wait until the end of "Baby Driver", the movie, to hear it. Not to worry, because writer/director Edgar Wright has given the film world an unbelievably energetic, ambitious outing, featuring an all-star cast, in a wild ride almost completely set to music.
The intro alone is worth the price of admission, as the title character, Baby (Ansel Elgort), the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers, weaves his way in, around and between all kinds of obstacles to elude the police. Everything works to perfection --- this time.
The ensuing holdups, however, do not yield the most favorable results. Welcome to the real world of crime. They are coordinated by Doc (Kevin Spacey), who never seems to dirty his hands. Spacey is his usual tough-talking, no-nonsense villain, playing the role as only he can. The grunt work, meanwhile, is carried out by various thugs, but never the exact same group in succession.
The first theft features Buddy (Jon Hamm), his moll, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and the high-strung Griff (Jon Bernthal), along with the invaluable Baby. Bernthal is simply a great character actor, and I wanted to see more of him in this story. Hamm's famous five-o'clock-shadow helps him to be a very credible bad guy, but I didn't necessarily believe Gonzalez as a gun-toting felon.
Jamie Foxx enters the fray later as Bats, who questions everything about Baby. Foxx can be an exceptional actor, but I didn't think his character was that intriguing as written. Later Baby meets a pretty blond waitress named Debora (Lily James). They immediately enter into a whirlwind romance with grandiose plans to leave their current world behind. I just wasn't convinced that their chemistry was the real thing. I liked Elgort very much in "The Fault in Our Stars", and James was enchanting as Cinderella. Still I found their pairing somewhat lacking.
As unique and well-crafted as "Baby Driver" is, one recurring irritation has the police always showing up at the right time to confront the thieves. However, the cinematography and film editing capture the amazing stunt driving spectacularly. Wright based his film largely on Steve McQueen's riotous chase scenes on the streets of San Francisco in "Bullitt" (1968). So it's safe to say that "Baby Driver" is the "Bullitt" for a new generation of moviegoers almost 50 years later.
Opinion: See It Now!