With Baby Driver, writer/director/music lover Edgar Wright takes a guy, a girl, gangsters, guns and getaway cars, and sends audiences on quite the ride. The filmmaker behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World doesn't exactly seek to sell audiences on the high-stakes, heist-pulling lifestyle. In fact, his protagonist Baby (Ansel Elgort) desperately wants to drive away from crime. But there's one thing that brightens up this speedster's obligation to underworld boss Doc (Kevin Spacey), and it's something we can all relate to: that fantastic feeling of hearing the right song at the right time, boosting your mood and changing how you see the world around you.
Whether he's hurtling through the streets or sitting in a booth at a diner, one of Baby's ever-present old school iPods always has the goods to improve any situation. His personal soundtrack makes dealing with bank-robbing thugs like Griff (Jon Bernthal), Bats (Jamie Foxx), and lovers Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González) bearable. It also makes meeting waitress Debora (Lily James), who enters his orbit literally crooning his name, all the more special. Baby is turning a routine into a dream with the right MP3s, and Wright wants viewers to lap up every second of it.
Cue Queen, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the kind of deep cuts the term 'deep cuts' was coined to describe. With Wright stylishly weaving his music choices into the fabric of both the film and its title character, there's barely a minute that passes by without the right audio accompaniment. There's singing and dancing and in-sync editing and cinematography — although Baby Driver isn't a musical. Rather, it's a playlist paired with glossy, kinetic pictures that delivers its story in video clip-length doses. Unsurprisingly, the film was actually inspired by Wright's music video for Mint Royale's 'Blue Song', which makes a blink-or-you'll-miss-it appearance here.
And yet, while Baby himself might avoid lulls in his flow of sounds (at one point, we even see him time the start of a job to a specific ditty) even the liveliest of mixtapes can run out of steam. Perhaps that's why Baby Driver entertains in the moment yet can't quite maintain momentum, and why a sense of repetition eventually sets in. Recognisable refrains begin to echo across scenes, while nods to similar flicks about heists, souped-up vehicles and lovers-against-the world — including Drive, The Driver, Point Break, Wild at Heart and A Life Less Ordinary — grow increasingly obvious.
Still, as you watch the cast revel in Wright's music-filled world, it's easy to enjoy much of the drive. Baby Driver's rush of attitude doesn't just ooze through its lovingly selected tunes. It's also present in Elgort and James' clear chemistry, and in the way Spacey, Hamm and González's embrace their shady supporting players. Baby's story gets dark and bloody at various points, but the film remains a light and playful dose of high-octane crime-romance hijinks. Think of it as the movie equivalent of a disposable toe-tapping pop song: mostly pumping, thumping fun, but it just can't play on forever.
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