The film follows Baby, a driver for the mysterious and violent Doc, who organizes crooks of various skills in order to pull off various heists. Due to an accident as a child, Baby has a constant ringing in his ears that he has to drown out with music, which has made him a huge musical nerd. He soon falls in love with a waitress at the diner his mother used to work at named Debora. On one last score with the hyper-violent Bats, Baby has squared away his debt to Doc, but like any good crime flick, even when he thinks he’s out, they pull Baby right back in. Forced to drive for Bats, and criminal couple Buddy and Darling for a big hit, Baby finds himself struggling to break out of the life that has become a cage, using his wits, his music, and his stellar driving skills if he wants his happy ending.
Edgar Wright is really good at taking tired premises and somehow finding ways to make them exciting and engaging again. Baby Driver, as you can imagine, is no exception, being a highly stylized heist driving movie with more heart than you’d expect. Every character is expertly mapped out, the cinematography is gorgeous and every detail is meticulous. But what Wright does with the action scenes elevates the whole film to a higher plane of existence. The car scenes are phenomenal, and at every turn, you want to rise out of your seat and cheer for Baby. Even the action scenes on foot are heart-stopping, with one scene finding Baby racing across the city to get back to home base. It is a feast of the best action scenes in a long time, and Wright is determined you leave full but wanting more.
Ansel Engort as Baby could have easily been drowned out by Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm, the big three actors in the film whose filmographies run circles around his. However, there’s a line between sweet and disaffected that Engort walks like a skilled top walker. See, Baby as a character looks like this cold, totally disconnected teen who underneath is a huge dork, no better represented than his shift in the film first scene. We see him stoic as the burglars enter the bank but once they are out of sight, he starts jamming out, taping the beat and mouthing the words like the loser he really is. He jokes around with his deaf, black foster dad and is a total teddy bear with his love interest Debora. The shifts between personalities are seamless, and while disparate, it builds a whole person.
I feel like the movie grossly underused Kevin Spacey, who is looming and threatening but never really fleshed out enough to feel like a real threat. Jaime Foxx was, on the other hand, used perfectly, being sly, brutal, and incredibly threatening, being the cause of much chaos and anarchy. Jon Hamm, who gets a surprising turn right at the end, is actually in a weird sweet spot of being funny but also dark and menacing.
But maybe shining the dimmest but the movie’s second-most important role is Lily James as Debora, the waitress who is so pitch perfect as the sweetheart of the not-quite-a-criminal boyfriend that you almost forget that this is supposed to be a modernization. She and Engort have some major chemistry and it really helps keep the love story at the center. Overall, just some stellar casting and even better performances.
It has to be said – this film proves that Edgar Wright is at his best when you let him wax nostalgic about genre, because this is an instant classic. A triumph in the era of drab, gritty heroes, Baby Driver dares people to take a wild ride and makes no apologies for the whiplash of frenzied fun it provides.