Review: Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver' Leaves Other Summer Movies In The Dust

Looking at Edgar Wright's latest, the manic heist caper Baby Driver, it's funny to think it may be his most grounded work to date. But it is, coming from a guy whose Shaun of the Dead made zombies funny; Hot Fuzz turned beat cops into action heroes, The World's End made an apocalypse out of a beer crawl, and don't even get me started on the straight-up video game rapture that was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. What's amazing about all of those films is how each informs Wright's dizzying, crank-up-the-beat style on Baby Driver. He couldn't have made this incredible movie without anything that came before, and boy are we fortunate to have this movie in our lives right now.

Baby Driver is basically The Fast and the Furious with much better music, cooler chases, and a killer romance. While the plot draws from familiar sources; there's a little bit of just about every heist movie trope thrown in there, such as the "one last job that goes wrong",  along with a whole lot of True Romance, the way Wright brings these elements to life is what makes this movie so different. In short, it's the way he uses music. It isn't just something you notice in the background; the music is something you feel. Music connects every scene, connects every character, every action flows from Wright's eclectic mix of tracks, all special in their own way. And if they aren't classic, this movie might help them become classics.

Ansel Elgort plays Baby, the best getaway driver in all of Atlanta. That's right, this movie takes place in Atlanta. Not exactly  hot bed location for this kind of film but that's just another reason why it feels so different. Baby might be the best, but he's a reluctant criminal at best, working for the coldly commanding Doc (Kevin Spacey, at his most Spacey). Doc comes up with the heists, and puts together the teams to pull them off, never working with the same team twice. The only exception is Baby, his "good luck charm", although there's always someone on the team who doesn't like the quiet kid with the sunglasses and headphones who never talks. Baby isn't easy to figure out, but Doc knows he's special, and that's all that matters.

The thing is, Baby has a condition. A humming in his ears caused by a childhood accident. To cope, he fills his head with music almost endlessly. And even when he isn't, music is part of his life, part of his personality, part of his every move. It helps him get through working off the debt he owes to Doc, who for all of his business-like manner is very dangerous. The people he surrounds himself with are worse, though; like the murderously unhinged Bats (Jamie Foxx) and the Bonnie & Clyde duo of Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez). Baby wants nothing more than to be done with a life of crime, and to just drive off into the sunset with Deborah (Lily James), the good-hearted waitress who sings her way into his life. "Baby, your names Baby? You get all of the good songs," she says to him during one of their breezy encounters.

You won't be surprised to learn that Baby has one last job to pull for Doc, and it all goes belly up. Whatever freedom he had in mind will come with a price. The cool thing about Baby is that he's not some grim-faced, mysterious driver like in so many of the great wheelman movies. We get what's going on inside of his head because we hear it in the music. It tells us everything we need to know. As usual Wright pays ultimate respect to a number of his influences, Walter Hill's 1978 film The Driver chief amongst them, but Baby Driver is a movie that only he could have made. The opening sequence alone, a rip-roaring, white-knuckle chase set to "Bellbottoms" by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, shows masterful editing and spatial choreography. It also shows that Wright has his own ideas about what makes a good car chase. Speed, sound, fury, locale, but not necessarily the smash 'em up approach where a dozen cop cars have flipped over before the first left turn.

Of course the performances are strong all around, and I think at this point it's safe to say that Wright is an actor's director. Has anybody given a bad performance in one of his movies? Elgort has all of the confident charm that we loved in The Fault In Our Stars, but he also sells Baby's internal conflict. He doesn't see himself as a criminal, and yet he certainly is one whether he wants to admit it or not. To truly be free he must come to grips with who he is. Foxx is off-the-chain wacko as Bats, a killer who is always spoiling for a fight and psyches himself up for jobs by pretending he was stolen from. Hamm's role as Buddy may seem underplayed at first, but that's the point. Buddy seems like the nice one, even defending Baby from others, but there's an ugly side to him lurking underneath, encouraged by Darling, who is like the Harley Quinn to his Joker.

It's been four years since Wright's last movie, and during that stretch he wasted a lot of time on Marvel's Ant-Man. Just think; if he had stuck around he'd probably be busy working on Ant-Man 2 right now. Instead we've got Baby Driver here now, the coolest movie of the summer. Because Wright has such a loyal following, it will undoubtedly be an underground classic within a couple of weeks. But Baby Driver deserves better than to be another of Wrght's movies that becomes a cult classic after the fact. It needs to be enjoyed and appreciated right now. And when it's over, you'll want to take Baby Driver out for another spin. And then another.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5