Review: Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver' is an Act of Clockwork Precision

June 26, 2017

Baby Driver Review

The British writer-director behind the "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy – consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World's End (2013) – and also the director behind 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Edgar Wright, is known for his unique, kinetic, energetic cinematic style. Unlike most comedy directors working today, Wright finds humor in the filmmaking, utilizing framing, lighting, mise-en-scène, camera movement, editing, and sound to pull as much comedy out of a scene as possible. With his latest film, Baby Driver, Wright has not only improved upon his signature style, but matured with it.

Like David Fincher, Wright is honing his craft with every film he makes, relying less on his style and more on imbuing the style with substance. If his early works are similar to those of Fincher's (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club), then Baby Driver is his Zodiac — a disciplined and elegantly orchestrated thriller that feels both effortless and impossibly intricate. It uses music to inform the characters and their emotions, the same way clever composition underscores the themes and characters of Fincher's films.

Ansel Elgort (of The Fault in Our Stars) stars as "Baby", a good-hearted getaway driver who gets criminals from point A to point B with the help of the soundtrack running through his head. That's because Baby's got his escape route plotted to the beat of specific songs that go straight from his expertly curated iPod straight to his ears. His pulse-pounding playlist translates into precise hairpin turns, gear shifts, and evasive maneuvers that leave his passengers in awe and their pursuers, the Atlanta Police Department, in the dust.

Baby works for "Doc" (Kevin Spacey), a white-collar crime boss who specializes in daytime bank heists, thanks in part to Baby's wheelman skills. Doc's go-to gunslingers include slicked-back outlaw Buddy (Jon Hamm), the brunette bombshell Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and the mentally unstable Bats (Jamie Foxx), whose suspicions about Baby's abilities begin to create a dangerous rift in an otherwise smooth-running operation. Baby, meanwhile, is saving up to get out of the game for good at the behest of his elderly deaf foster father (CJ Jones).

Complicating matters is the fact that Baby has fallen for the kind-eyed Debora (Lily James), the newest waitress at the '50s diner he routinely visits. Like Baby, she is looking for a way out. "Sometimes all I want is to head west on I-20 in a car I can't afford, with a plan I don't have, just me, my music, and the road," she says. That sounds great to Baby, but one last job stands between them and the open road. But this time, the heist isn't an act of clockwork precision. Mistakes are made, and the consequences of each wrong turn begin to weigh heavily on Baby, forcing the wheelman to get his hands dirty to protect the ones he loves.

Baby Driver Review

Baby Driver is an action thriller executed as postmodern musical comedy, where exhilarating car chases and intense shootouts are choreographed to the beat of over 30 tracks, including "Bellbottoms" from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Neat Neat Neat" by The Damned, and "Brighton Rock" by Queen. It's not just the action sequences that are painstakingly choreographed to music, either. Baby gets his own La La Land-esque dance number, set to Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle." While on a coffee run, Baby nimbly traverses the streets of Atlanta in step with the song as lyrics appear as part of the mise-en-scène. These scenes are incredibly intricate, with everything in the frame — pedestrians, café workers, street preachers, children, dogs — in perfect synchronization to Wright's soundtrack.

In addition to these brilliantly executed action-musical numbers, there's a lot going on within the story itself. While the story is very much Baby's, Baby Driver is an ensemble movie. As much as the kid would like to escape his "co-workers," he can't. He's a loner — a member of a gang he doesn't want to be in, and one that he can't seem to get away from. Elgort does an excellent job of capturing Baby's conflicting emotions around his loyalty to Doc and his desperate need to get away from him at the same time. As for Doc, Spacey excels at being bad. Whether it's Glengarry Glen Ross, Se7en, The Usual Suspects, House of Cards, or Baby Driver, Spacey has a way of delighting you with how corrosive and venomous he can be. Likewise, Hamm and Foxx are equal parts charismatic and sinister, and they manage to be funny while entirely unlikable.

My favorite part of the ensemble, however, is CJ Jones' character Joseph. Many of the film's sweetest moments come not from Baby and Debora's relationship, but from the kid's interactions with the elderly deaf man who has raised him. It's this relationship, in juxtaposition to the high level of danger that threatens both Baby and Joseph, that creates the highest stakes in a Wright film yet. And because of those high stakes, the film has the most heart of any of Wright's work thus far - a sign that the filmmaker is maturing and evolving beyond what's expected of him.

The only downside to Wright's immensely entertaining film is that, while masterfully staged and executed, there isn't anything about it that feels as revelatory as seeing Shaun of the Dead or Scott Pilgrim vs the World for the first time. I don't know, maybe it's because the way Wright combined genres in those movies felt more fluid, where the plot, characters, and filmmaking all came together perfectly to create something that felt fresh and new. Here, dynamic action sequences, creative filmmaking, and great performances elevate a story that, without wall-to-wall music fueling it, isn't that interesting. Still, Wright's enthusiasm for storytelling is infectious, and despite feeling like I didn't see anything new in Baby Driver, I certainly enjoyed the ride.

Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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No one respects you save for Tarek. Your views and tiresome and trollish.

Jon Odishaw on Jun 26, 2017


Hey Bo. There is indeed a big Buzz around this movie. People are selling it as a must see masterpiece. Will you be surprised if you knew that William Friedkin Himself praised to the skies this movie in one of his tweets? I was surprised...Now was it a kind maneuver to help Edgar Wright in promoting his movie or is it really this big surprise everybody is talking about? To be confirmed...

tarek on Jun 27, 2017


In my opinion I was not sold with all the reviews. I took someone who just got off tour(musician) and did not see many previews or reviews going into the film. It was nice to get an opinion from someone like that. He absolutely enjoyed it and said it was his best movie so far this year. I was pleased to see Flea in this as well :).

deerosa on Jun 28, 2017


Thanks for sharing deerosa. A fresh perspective is always useful.

tarek on Jun 28, 2017


Saw Baby Driver a few nights ago and Bo, you should give it a shot! Maybe not in the theater, but at least on cable/Netflix. Shot on 35mm, the soundtrack is phenomenal and the driving is intense. Also, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx are strong, but Lily James is simply adorable. The final act isn't that strong, but the rest of the movie makes up for it.

THE_RAW_ on Jul 5, 2017


Haha I just have to jump in 2 months later to say that both Bo and Tarek are obvious trolls. There is no point in hearing their one-sided, uninformed opinions. There is no point in expecting them to come to an understanding. We all know the point in beating ourselves up trying to make sense of people like this.

ErkLMth on Sep 10, 2017


To this I will answer by: "Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit"

tarek on Jun 27, 2017


I don't speak Latin

Jon Odishaw on Jun 27, 2017


Oh I can translate it to you. it says: I love coffee. ;D

tarek on Jun 27, 2017


why don't you 2 get a room

CyraNOSE on Jun 28, 2017


YES! I am so ready for more Ed Wright.

DAVIDPD on Jun 27, 2017


saw it last night, I can't believe I watched a movie that actually lived up to the buzz and hype. Edgar Wright's masterpiece!

deerosa on Jun 28, 2017


The trailer alone made me throw up in my own mouth.

CyraNOSE on Jun 28, 2017


Late to the party, but I respectfully disagree and welcome the escape and eagerly open wide for the cotton candy! Lol But I also don't always trust reviews; sometimes you have to experience it for yourself. You may be surprised!

THE_RAW_ on Jun 30, 2017

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