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Baby Driver - Review

Baby Driver

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

EDGAR Wright has delivered the film of the summer, and one of the best of the year, with Baby Driver, a heist movie that tips its hat to past classics while retaining an energy and style that’s steadfastly its own.

Inspired as much by genre classics from The Driver to Heat as it is by an idea the writer-director had while listening to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms in his bedroom some 20-odd years ago, this is an effortlessly cool pleasure drive that proves there is still plenty of room for original thought and ambition within the play-it-safe blockbuster season.

Wright’s idea was setting a car chase to Bellbottoms, so it’s little surprise to find the movie begins with that sequence. But rather than stopping there, he’s expanded the format so that the music informs the pace of the whole film.

Whatever its main protagonist, Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) is listening to, so are we. Whenever he removes an earphone, so the soundtrack becomes a little muffled. Pull out the plugs, and you have the closest the movie ever gets to being silent, barring the dialogue.

If this sounds cheesy or even tiresome, then think again. Part of the wonder in watching Baby Driver unfold is seeing just how cleverly Wright marries the music to the action. Gun fights play out in tandem with some beats. But then so too does something as simple as a cough. It’s like a musical, only not. And therein lies the breath-taking originality… a film that boasts a special kind of energy.

And if the musical backdrop wasn’t tricky enough to pull off on its own, then extra plaudits have to go to Wright for creating a genuinely thrilling genre movie in its own right – one that certainly pays homage to past greats, but which comfortably sits alongside them and carves its own niche.

The point of Baby’s insistence on music is that he’s trying to drown out the tinnitus he has suffered from since being involved in a life-altering car crash as a kid. Yet far from being put off by cars, he’s addicted to them… and speed. And after a bad choice, he’s the go-to getaway driver of choice for Atlanta crime figure Doc (Kevin Spacey), who is the man with a sharp eye for an easy heist.

Initially, Baby drives for Doc to pay off a debt. But it soon becomes clear he’s beholden to him for life, a terrifying realisation that makes his fledgling relationship with adorable waitress Deborah (Lily James) all the more dangerous for the leverage it presents Doc.

To complicate matters still further, the latest crew Doc has assembled is overly burdened by psychopaths, with Jamie Foxx’s volatile Bats chief among the unhinged, as well as partners in crime Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza González) vying for top spot too. Can Baby pull off that one final job and getaway clean?

True, the idea of a final job offering a winner takes all opportunity that is continually undermined by the loonies within the crew isn’t that original. But the journey Wright takes you on sure is.

Baby Driver

His characters are as cool as they are colourful, while the execution of the numerous set pieces (from the dazzling opening car chase through to a foot-chase getaway) are choreographed to leave you buzzing for some time afterwards.

And yet there’s room for smart, often funny dialogue amid the car-nage. Wright makes sure you care for Baby and his plight as well as root for the romance between him and Deborah. The scenes between them sparkle with all the charm of La La Land crossed with True Romance.

But the bad guys get time to weight in too, as exemplified by a terrific diner scene between Baby, Bats, Buddy and Darling in which the four ‘discuss’ each other’s histories, thereby offering an insight into possible motivations and just how dangerous each of them is. To raise the stakes within this one scene alone, Baby is also looking out for the wellbeing of Deb, given the propensity for violence of the other three around the table. It really is a master-class in writing that is vaguely reminiscent of Heat while charting its own course.

There are many more sequences to savour, such is the regularity with which Baby Driver scores. But to say too much more would be to rob you of many of the surprises, given that this is a film that also keeps you guessing and therefore emotionally invested.

Wright’s film is something to genuinely savour, a cinematic gift that keeps on giving. So buckle up and enjoy this ridiculously glorious ride.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 113mins
UK Release Date: June 28, 2017