Tell me if you’ve had this moment. You’re out driving. Your iPod, your smartphone, your CD player, or the radio hits the right song at the right time. You turn up the music, and life just syncs up. You hit the gas on the highs, the lights on the lows, and it all matches up. You feel like you’re in an idealized dream state. The soundtrack of your life rings in your ears.
What if that were an entire movie? That’s the ask, answered perfectly by director/writer Edgar Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver.
The story of the movie is one you’ve heard before, sure – our lead, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for a local crime lord (Kevin Spacey). He’s got a crush – the local diner waitress (Lily James), and he’s got “one last job” to complete, and then he’s out.
We’ve seen this many many times before – Ben Affleck took it to the Oscars with The Town, heck, it’s even the story of Drive. But you’ve never seen it delivered to you like this. With Baby Driver, it’s not a newness of the message, it’s the inventiveness of the method.
With his filmography so far, Edgar Wright has shown a keen eye for visual trickery and unforgettable soundtracks. From the chill British vibes of Shaun of the Dead to the brilliant montages of Hot Fuzz to the indie-rock video game heavy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the throwback sounds of The World’s End, Wright has always melded visual storytelling with an audio component, but he has completed his masterwork with Baby Driver. It’s a musical, but no one’s singing – instead every tire squeal, every windshield wipe, every gun blast, it matches (or mixes perfectly) with one incredible mixtape. It’s explained away as the only way our hero can deal with his terrible tinnitus, playing music through his iPod’s earbuds (continuing the killer Summer MP3 players have had on the big screen), making him a better driver and getting away like no one else.
The result is one of the most unique, energetic, unforgettable and completely captivating films on the big screen in years. Wright says to see it big and loud, and I cannot agree more. Every single frame of the film’s 113 minute running time is meticulously considered and beautifully played out. As usual, there are easter eggs, visual gags and brilliant logic circles to reveal themselves to you on multiple watches. This is simply why I love movies in a pure, uncut form.
The performances equally match the brilliance behind the camera and on the page. Elgort plays a perfect Baby (his babyface working for him, not against him here). His romance with Lily James’ Debora is simple and sweet, and they are surrounded by a murderers row of scenery chewing criminal performances from the aforementioned Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and a far-too-short appearance from Jon Bernthal, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.
I could gush about this movie for hours, for thousands of words, for many many years to come, but all I can say is this – you need to see it. See it in the theaters. Find the best screen, the best sound, and strap in. And then go buy the soundtrack or start blasting it on your smartphone. Edgar Wright made us the mixtape of the year, and the best way to check it out is on the silver screen.
Highest possible recommendation.
Baby Driver is in theaters now.