Baby Driver is a many-splendoured movie – it’s Tarantino meets Scorsese meets Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Which means it’s operatic, violent and ineffably cool. Baby Driver is a heist movie but it’s also a musical. Director Edgar Wright has created something which feels at once, familiar and new. It’s propulsive and energizing – basically a straight-up adrenaline shot.
At the centre of the film is the angelic Ansel Elgort playing the titular character – Baby is a highly skilled getaway driver who works for an Atlanta criminal who calls himself Doc. Doc is played by Kevin Spacey with the sort of clinical deadpan face that only he can conjure.
Baby was in a car accident as a child – he has a condition called tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in his ears. To drown this out, he listens to music all the time. His commitment to music is so great that he can’t begin the job until the right song is playing. Baby is at heart, a gentle soul. But the characters he ferries around are fierce – these include Buddy, played by Jon Hamm, who becomes creepier and more unhinged as the film progresses and Bats, a truly frightening psycho played by Jamie Foxx.
Baby Driver is superbly crafted with skillfully choreographed car chases that feel more visceral than anything you’ve seen in the Fast and Furious franchise. But for me, it worked because all the frantic action is rooted in emotion and humour. Unlike the Fast and Furious world or Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, this film isn’t consumed by high-speed posturing or art-house existential angst. There is a streak of sentimentality and a sweet love story – between Baby and the waitress at the local diner – Debora played by Lily James.
The last thirty minutes of Baby Driver dissolve in screeching cars and shoot-outs. Which does get exhausting. But the rest of the film is so enjoyable that you happily overlook this. Pay special attention to the humorous asides, which are signature Edgar Wright. At one point, Doc tells Baby – Don’t feed me any more lines from Monsters Inc. It pisses me off.
What’s not to love?