Review: ‘Baby Driver’ (That’s your name?)

You’ve come a long way, Baby.

Using music to drown out a hearing impairment, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a boyish getaway driver who can do amazing things with a vehicle — given the right tune. His share from each job goes toward working off his debt to Doc (Kevin Spacey), the man who meticulously plans the robberies and never uses the same crew twice. In spite of fulfilling his obligations and looking forward to a life with his new girlfriend Debora (Lily James), Baby is tapped by Doc for one last job, one that could make everyone very rich or go horribly wrong for all involved… and no isn’t an acceptable answer.

Writer/director Edgar Wright, best known for his action/comedy Cornetto Ice Cream trilogy — including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz featuring Simon Pegg, Nira Park, and Nick Frost — took a few years off after Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The World’s End before unleashing his love-letter to fuel-injected gear-head heist flicks. Guns, cars, music, and sunglasses are the order of the day, but how will modern audiences react to a modern self-aware take on throwback genre?

Yeah, it’s a weird title, but it makes sense… and you’ll remember it, too. While there are serious if not dire moments in the film, the overall production doesn’t take itself too seriously and invites the audience to come along for the fun. Much of the dialog is rapid fire and snarky while littered with clues; it’s as interesting watching the story unfold as it is to read between the lines of dialog… and the rest of it is all crazy car chases and stunts. It’s true, folks: this one lives up to the promise of its trailers… and then some.

The character of Baby is something interesting; while a criminal in his own right, he’s also a victim of circumstance who adheres to his own code. He’s quiet and does his own thing, but neither does he miss a trick. Ansel Elgort plays Baby so naturally and full of charm you’d think he was the character, and it’s a tall order to stand out considering who’s in the rest of the cast.

Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Jamie Foxx are among the rotating thugs-for-hire who Doc pieces his crew together with, all interesting characters in their own right making friction against other personalities to keep changing up the mix; revealing who the standout is would give too much away. As more than just a love interest, Lily James has already proven herself a chameleon; from Cinderella to Juliet and a zombie fighter to a call girl, there isn’t much she can’t convince you of, even a doe-eyed waitress who falls for the right guy at the wrong time.

If you’re familiar with Edgar Wright’s signature visuals and enjoy the way he uses environments and camera angles in his storytelling, you can’t go wrong here. Like his previous work, you’ll want a sequel but it really doesn’t need one. With just enough thinking to be thoughtful and just enough danger to feel dangerous, it’s a rare balancing act that any film works as well as this does.

Baby Driver is rated R for violence, language throughout, and “criminal use” of great dialog.

Four skull recommendation out of four

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