Edgar Wright's Baby Driver doesn't look to reform nor recreate the heist genre, for that might be too out of reach even for the man who gave us three hilarious Simon Pegg-helmed comedies and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, Wright looks to give us something that's almost as admirable and that's a good, engaging heist film - something that has been almost as hard to come by in the present day as works created to elevate or transcend the genre.
For the most part, Wright succeeds in giving us the desired outcome, a very good movie; the kind you should see if only to punctuate the fatigue of animated films and superhero movies that has set in one's system like butter-shock from movie-theater popcorn. It takes a slew of actors many of us should recognize by now and lets them roam free within the confines of their own loosely defined, free-range film that is fun when it's everything but great when it's something, and let's just say, the latter happens enough to outweigh the former.
Ansel Elgort takes the lead here playing a young getaway driver named Baby, who has made his career working with Doc (Kevin Spacey) on a series of heists. Baby is the only constant in Doc's heists, for his skills and prowess behind the wheel are unmatched, especially under intense pressure and insurmountable odds. Baby's secret comes in the form of his earbuds and many different iPods, each equipped with a host of different songs that compliment or influence Baby's mood and driving. He uses music as a way of coping with his permanent tinnitus, something he developed after he was injured in a car accident that took the lives of his parents.
Baby is tasked with carrying out the operation with the loud and impulsive Bats (Jamie Foxx) and the "Bonnie and Clyde"-esque power-couple of Buddy (Jon Hamm) and his wife Darling (Eiza González). The stakes are high, especially as Baby constantly wants to opt out in the middle of the operation in order to pick up Debora, head west, and never stop.
Complimenting Baby Driver's high-stakes premise is a predictable assortment of B-sides and golden oldies by the likes of The Beach Boys, T. Rex, and many other bands. Similar to the way the Guardians of the Galaxy films both incorporated a memorable lineup of terrific tracks, Baby Driver does so in a way that aids to the film and furthers the storyline at hand, with Wright and company even going as far as to include song lyrics in the form of graffiti and other Easter-egg-like inclusions throughout the picture. It doesn't feel like a mixtape as much as it does fuel for this already high-octane picture.
Ansel Elgort, in his first real, formidable starring role where he transcends typecasting, is fairly good here. Functioning on mystery, elusiveness, and all-around slickster behavior, Elgort's Baby is nonetheless a compelling anti-hero by virtue of his likability, and it helps that Elgort finds himself appropriately "colored in," so to speak, by the underrated Jamie Foxx and Lily James, despite the thanklessness of her role occasionally showing.
The only thing upsetting about Baby Driver is how, in the final act, it manages to overdo itself to the point of discarding the grace and style it so intelligently utilized for the previous hour and a half. Baby Driver's style is a style atypical of contemporary action movies and that's one that favors slickness in aesthetic, camera angles, and snappy (but not quippy) banter rather than fast-cuts and a vulgar sound and light show. This is, in part, why it's pretty unfortunate to see the film opt for the easy way out when it comes to the conclusion, resulting in an overly climactic display of car-crashes, bait-and-switches, and enough on-screen madness to make one feel like they wandered into the final minutes of The Fate of the Furious.
Not dissimilar to Moonlight, Baby Driver is also a film that feels like it has three endings before it actually gets to the ending, which is another real issue that makes one wonder why Wright seemed to have such uncertainty about where to end the film. The only thing stopping Baby Driver from having a "lean" descriptor to compliment its occasional "mean" car-chases and character motives is the fact that the film drags on about fifteen minutes after it should've ended only to then go on another five minutes following that. Even with all of the fun and exhilarating moments that led up to a botched finale, I'd argue that if Baby Driver would've gone on for a few more minutes, I might not have been so positive by the end of it.
Yet, it's difficult to knock a film that's this skillfully conceived and wickedly entertaining from start-to-finish. From its downplayed sense of style, to making one often forget they're essentially watching a video-game they're unable to play, Baby Driver's ability to shred cynicism and engage the viewer with something not particularly new, but very well done is marvelous and necessary in a time where people are noticing derivative content more than ever.