Baby (Ansel Englort) is a getaway driver for criminal King-pin Doc (Kevin Spacey), and he only needs one more job to be straight (Baby stole Doc’s car several years back and has been in his debt ever since). After completion of the job that’s set him straight, Baby tries to cope with normality. He finds a job and quickly falls for the lovely Debora, but it transpires being straight doesn’t necessarily mean he is finished as Doc needs Baby to do another job.
From the one shot opening credit sequence (on a par with Goodfellas and The Player) Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a highly stylish film. The choreography of the car chases is electrifying, the editing is top notch and the use of music is timed perfectly with every slamming of a car door, firing of a gun and every simple action. The car chases, done on location, are brilliantly choreographed with the stunt work putting even the Fast and Furious franchise to shame, but it’s the long takes and the use of music in the film that particularly impressive.
Throughout his career, Edgar Wright has used popular music to great effect in his films, even in his earliest films (such as Shaun of the Dead) music was used to match what’s on screen (think the scene where Shaun and friends beat a zombie in tune to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now). Like Guardians of the Galaxy Wright’s latest film has a great soundtrack but it is made more memorable by having the soundtrack be perfectly in tune with what’s occurring on screen (except one scene where the music choice contrasts effectively to the scene).
Importantly the film is careful not to be totally style over substance. Even if the film’s substance isn’t ground-breaking or greatly original it’s easy to be carried along with Baby and Debora’s relationship and their love of music. Baby’s love of music and the reason why he’s constantly listening to music gives the film some emotional weight and highlights the importance of being able to share of joy of listening to music. As sweet as their relationship is, aside from one throwaway line regarding a deceased parent, Debora isn’t given much agency of her own.
Ansel Englort is fine in the lead role as he and Lily James click well, but he is upstaged by the deadpan Kevin Spacey and a sympathetic performance John Hamm. The humour is once again highly amusing even if it does not define the film (as it did in his earlier works) as the film is a tense, exciting watch (it goes a little off the rails in the final act however) and an impressive technical exercise.
Edgar Wright has shown frequently throughout his career that he has an effective directorial flourish in his repertoire (think the fight scene in the toilet in At Worlds End) and Baby Driver is perhaps his most complete work, but the likes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will likely stick more in the memory, but that’s not to say they are subjectively better films.