SXSW 2017: Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver Delivers
Edgar Wright's Baby Driver opens with one of the best action set pieces in years. Baby (The Fault in our Stars' Ansel Elgort) sits behind the wheel of a super powered Subaru. We stay with Baby as he listens to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms,” while inside the bank only a few feet away, the crew of bank robbers he’s driving getaway for are doing their work. When they come bursting out of the bank and hustling back into the car, Baby jacks up the music and takes off, culminating in a car chase so brilliantly executed you can’t believe the movie will ever be able to top it. It does.
Baby Driver is centered on Baby’s obsession with music, specifically, his inability to do his work without one of his playlists blaring in his ears. He’s a sweet-faced kid still grieving the the loss of the best singer he’s ever known (his mom), and his growing love for the waitress that reminds him of her is as awkward, slightly creepy and ultimately sweet as it sounds.
Baby’s obsessive music addiction is the film’s central conceit, and Wright’s ability to perfectly match every major sequence to Baby’s playlist is so well done, so invigorating, you wonder if there’s a film genre Wright can’t turn on its head and make it his own. He’s made zombies fresh again in Shaun of the Dead, buddy cop stories hilarious again in Hot Fuzz, and alien invasions surprising again in The World’s End, but the work he’s done here for the heist genre might be his most inspired yet. The action is thrilling, the cast excellent, and the music—the music!—is delightful.
Elgort’s Baby is also easy to root for her, especially in his attempts around Debora (Lilly James), another music-obsessed down-on-her-luck gal who Baby adores. His playlist begins to change the deeper he loves for her, but Baby can’t take off with Debora for good until he pays off some debts to a man named Doc (Kevin Spacey), giving him the requisite “one last job” that fuels so many heist films.
Of course this job needs to be the most dangerous of all, and it is, thanks in no small part to the unhinged lunatic who goes by Bats (Jamie Foxx), with the rest of the crew (played by Jon Hamm, Jon Berenthal and Eiza González) not entirely reliable or sane themselves. The job is to rob the Post Office, of all places, and it comes after Wright has given us plenty of potent banter, narrative left turns and enjoyable weirdness to know that anything can and probably will happen. The job starts off bad and keeps getting worse, and with Debora now in the picture, Baby has something to lose. While before it was just a blast to watch him DJ his insane exploits behind the wheel, now we’re really rooting for him to succeed.
The final heist, all set to Baby’s music, is a hoot. In a way, the entire film is really dictated and directed by Baby himself, with his music deciding the tone and direction, allowing Wright to play with our expectations and our reaction and relationship to the film’s songs. By the time the last tune plays, Baby Driver has managed to hit all the right notes.