Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González
Review by Mike DeAngelo:
When discussions of who should helm the next big blockbuster franchise comes up, superhero or not, Edgar Wright has always been one of the names at the top of my dream list. Most non-movie buffs usually respond with a look of confusion or simply a, “Who?!” I get it – his movies haven’t exactly been “blockbusters,” and they’re all quite different from one another on the surface. Even then, there’s still a pacing and a kinetic energy that he brings to everything he does that would lend itself well to many a franchise looking to find its legs. For the non-initiated Edgar is best known for directing Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim VS. the World, & The World’s End – none of which made a ton of money at the box-office, but all have devoted cult followings due to Edgar’s outstanding taste and a directorial style that always effortlessly and infectiously blends comedy, action, and heart. Edgar was set to make his big Hollywood debut with Marvel’s Ant-Man, but sadly left the project just before shooting began due to Marvel’s disinterest in allowing him to truly make the film his own – a film I would have loved to have seen in comparison to the fairly bland Ant-Man we ended up getting. Edgar ended up keeping a writing credit on the film, but his deft directorial touch was sorely missing.
Seeing as he already had a script for Baby Driver ready to go, Edgar jumped right into production after his very public break-up with Marvel – and while I’d still love to see Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, I’m extremely thankful that he ended up stumbling into Baby Driver, as it’s one of the most fun and thrilling action films to come out in some time.
One of Edgar Wright’s greatest attributes is his almost Tarantino-level knowledge of movies. He’s seen so much that every film he does plays partly as a great winking homage to the genre or sub-genre that he’s tackling. Baby Driver is no different – clearly, Edgar has done his homework here. He knows which chase/heist movie tropes to lovingly reference and which to subvert entirely, making Baby Driver familiar enough to please wider audiences, but playful and referential enough to please film buffs.
The biggest thing that makes Baby Driver feel so original is its approach to music. Every character in the movie is tied to the music that Baby plays to drown out the ringing in his ears caused by tinnitus. Character movements are tied to the beat, action scenes are tied to the beat, certain songs are tied to the themes of the movie, etc. With a few exceptions, the movie never stops. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a musical, but it’s about as close to an action-musical as you can get, making it feel wholly original and in a genre all its own.
Beyond that, Baby Driver is impeccably cast. I’ll admit that I haven’t particularly enjoyed Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars, The Divergent Franchise) in anything that I’ve seen him in prior to this, but he gives an absolutely star-making performance here as the titular Baby. He’s charismatic while also knowing when/how to play the understated moments – making him at once the superhero and the every-man of the story.
The supporting cast is also top-notch, from the more prominent characters played by Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, and Jamie Foxx, to the smaller parts played by Lanny Joon, Flea, Jon Bernthal, and newcomer Brogan Hall. All bring their A-game and are given their own moments to shine.
My only complaint, character-wise and with the movie in general, is Lily James, who plays Baby’s love interest, Debora. It’s not that Lily does her job poorly, quite the opposite. She’s just not given much to do beyond being in service to the main character, which may be intentional due to the genre we’re dealing with here. Either way, Lily is charming and likable enough to make the character her own. It’s a small sin for a movie so well-made, but it’s a sin, nonetheless.
Bottom line, if you’re a die-hard fan of kinetic action movies, Baby Driver may be the movie of the year for you. Like its soundtrack, it’s an eclectic, fun, charming, and exciting joyride that you’ll find yourself wanting to start over as soon as it ends. As with all of Edgar Wright’s other movies, it only makes me more eager to see what he does next…SEE IT IMMEDIATELY!
CURRENT IMDB SCORE: 8.6/10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 98%
MY B2TF SCORE: 9.5/10