Review by Kat Bittner
Basically: If the Rolling Stones made a heist movie it’d be Baby Driver; it’s got the swagger, sexiness, and the car stereo turned all the way up.
Baby Driver is an audiovisual mixtape homage to heist movies, lovingly crafted by Edgar Wright (creator of the delicious Cornetto Trilogy). The film demands to be seen in the theater in surround sound. Like any great playlist, Baby Driver starts with a driving beat. Baby (Ansel Elgort) accelerates onto the urban Atlanta streets, with “Bell Bottoms” by John Spencer Blues Explosion as his fuel. When it comes to his crew of bank robbers and thieves, Baby is the skilled session musician—he comes in and does the job amazingly well, but is never fully a part of the group. He’s the getaway driver, his talent is outmaneuvering vigilante citizens, and he’s nice enough to get the team coffee afterwards. The team is a rotating cast of pseudonym’d psychopaths employed by the coolly professional Doc (Kevin Spacey). The standouts are the Bonnie and Clyde pairing of Darling and Bud (played with crazy love vivre by Eiza González and John Hamm) and loose cannon Bats (just plain crazy-eyed Jaime Foxx).
Baby is driving his last laps in Doc’s criminal organization to pay off his debt, while taking care of his foster dad Joseph (deaf advocate and performer CJ Jones), when he meet-cutes Debora (Lily James) at a diner. She’s the waitress singing, ‘B-A-B-Y’ by Carla Thomas; how can he resist? The ensuing conversation about songs with “your name” in them would make any musicophile swoon. Baby, of course, has all the songs while Deborah only has a few. Pretty soon they are sharing headphones and making plans to ride off into the sunset.
Nice plan. However, when you’re in the thug life it’s hard to get out. Baby gets pulled into one last heist. It goes spectacularly bad leaving him in a race to save those he loves before Doc and the others can get to them first. The twists and turns in the plot and action sequences are thrilling, you’ll leave the theater feeling like you just stepped off a musical roller coaster.
The action is synced perfectly to a spot-on soundtrack. Wright describes the film as a diegetic musical, “One of the premises of the movie is that Baby is pretty much soundtracking the movie. Every song you hear in the movie is actually happening within the scene. And in some parts of the movie he can’t really operate properly without the right music playing.”* Songs were cleared beforehand and actors and stunt people rehearsed and filmed to the music, not as usually done in post edit. The way in which Wright uses the visual and musical language is evocative of musicals. There’s a sequence in which Baby gets coffee while listening to “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob and Earl, echoing another great musical opening sequence in West Side Story. The choreography, location, and soundtrack harmonize to pull you into their world.
Edgar Wright is one of those directors that makes you want to have a mini film fest in your living room featuring all his influences. Look for the easter egg casting of Walter Hill as the courtroom interpreter. Well known for Aliens & The Warriors, Hill also wrote and directed 1978 film The Driver (about a getaway driver) and wrote the screenplay for The Getaway starring Steve McQueen who is famous for another epic car movie, Bullitt (1968).
In the end: If you need a break from superheroes and remakes, Baby Driver is a refreshingly melodic getaway driver led heist movie fueled by fantastic music. So, put on your shades, set that iPod to some rock ‘n roll, and drive to the nearest theater ‘cause Mozart in a go cart’s gonna take you on one hell of a ride!
Wanna get in the spirit for the movie? The soundtrack for Baby Driver is now available!