SXSW Film Review: Edgar Wright Blows Everyone Away With ‘Baby Driver’

(l to r) Baby (ANSEL ELGORT), Bats (JAMIE FOXX), Darling (EIZA GONZALEZ) and Buddy (JON HAMM) decide on doing the heist in TriStar Pictures' BABY DRIVER.

[rating=9.00]

Edgar Wright has never been easy to pin down to a specific genre. His ability to seamlessly merge biting comedy with a multitude of other genres is simply unmatched. He can craft scenes of heartbreaking drama, nail-biting horror, and edge-of-your-seat action, and pair it with a well-timed sight gag or punchline without ruining the moment. As an uncompromising auteur, he’s nothing short of a master cinematic craftsman.

In the opening moments of Baby Driver, his latest film (and first one after the beloved Cornetto trilogy), Wright manages to introduce the film’s premise, and its central character, without any dialogue, and all in the span of a single song.

Set to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosions’ “Bellbottoms,” the song’s erratic breakbeat orchestrates the entire sequence. A string of jump cuts gives us a visual introduction to three characters before they exit the vehicle, while the titular Baby (Ansel Elgort) sits behind the wheel, catching glimpses of his passengers robbing a nearby bank while he lip syncs and plays air drums.

The song continues as the three return to the car, followed by a stunning and tense car chase, with Baby speeding across the streets and freeways of Atlanta, pulling out all the stops to avoid the swarms of cops in hot pursuit. Both the chase and the song conclude in perfect synchronicity, as Baby steers their getaway car into a parking lot with all four tires screeching.

In just over three minutes, Wright has already made his mark. It’s tense but humorous, visceral but over-the-top, and impossible to pigeonhole into a single genre.

As the story unfolds, we’re told Baby’s backstory through wordless, flickering flashbacks, as well as how he found himself working as a professional getaway driver in the first place, a job he’s stuck with, at least until he pays off a debt to his boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey) — or so he thinks. Outside of his job as a driver with savant-level skills, Baby glides through his day-to-day life just as effortlessly as he maneuvers his way through a high-speed chase.

Whether he’s ordering coffee or making his stepfather (C.J. Jones) a snack, Baby’s lively and carefree, even moreso as he gets closer to being cut free from his obligation to Doc. Until then, he continues to view the world through his wayfarer sunglasses, with his earbuds in his ears and armed with iPod after iPod, each one filled with songs for “different days, different moods.”

It’s here that Baby Driver truly elevates itself beyond another slick, big-budget, finely-tuned action movie. With Baby constantly curating his own personal soundtrack, whether he’s behind the wheel or not, the music underscores everything, becoming not just another character, but the spiritual center of the film. What results is part big-budget action flick, part gritty heist movie, part musical, and — above all else — an unmistakably Edgar Wright experience.

Baby Driver opens nationwide this August.

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