Baby Driver is the latest film by cult movie director Edgar Wright, who gave the world Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The one’s a heist-thriller quasi-musical love story that’s, oddly enough, easily Wright’s least energetic film with disappointing action and a story that makes a lot of noise but doesn’t really take you anywhere.
It’s still a fun time and a great date movie, but let’s get into it.
Baby Driver centers on—wait for it—Baby, a about a young criminal getaway driver for a crew of a bank robbers who otherwise can (almost annoyingly) do no wrong. As hero-criminals in movies are wont to do, he really just wants to get away from it all.
Baby, played by The Fault In Our Stars’ Ansel Elgort, which is somehow not a made up name, has tinnitus. He drowns out the ringing in his ears with a collection of classic songs making up the soundtrack. Once he falls in love, his ride to freedom from his criminal mastermind boss he’s indebted to gets pretty bumpy, leaning heavily into a 1980s John Hughes movie vibe, which is a perfect match for the material.
If you like music, you’re probably going to love how Baby Driver utilizes it. Wright’s movies have always had a rhythmic flow to them, both literally through fantastic soundtracks—with this easily being the best soundtrack of his filmography—as well as creatively through his method of editing his movies.
The crew of characters are great; Jamie Foxx is suitably insane as Bats, Jon Hamm is both charming and menacing, as is his onscreen partner Darling played by Eiza González. Kevin Spacey is the crew’s bossman and, well, he’s just being Kevin Spacey, but it’s a good, very funny Kevin Spacey. Baby’s love interest Debora, played by Lily James, is incredibly endearing and has great on-screen chemistry with Elgort, himself often overshadowed by the excellent characters playing against him.
And then there’s the cars. When the action gets going and the wheels start burning, the movie takes a satisfying, uncomplicated and straightforward approach.
The featured rides are a Subaru WRX and a Dodge Challenger, and the movie doesn’t pretend like they have V12 engines or infinite gearing. The two most impressive stunts come early, and if you’re so inclined, you can see how they trained for it behind the scenes here.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a star car of the movie—our guy lifts whatever he can get or whatever is rational for each new job and there’s very little emotion or character given to the rides.
What did stand out the most is a scene just shortly after our introduction to Baby at the start of the film. It’s a single-take shot that follows Baby through the streets of Atlanta while he’s out on a coffee run, and if you pay attention to the graffiti and store names, you’ll have a good idea of just how meticulously they planned out the musical-like number to Harlem Shuffle, and the incredible handiwork only director Edgar Wright can bring to the table.
Baby Driver undoubtedly knows how to have fun and be original, especially among today’s sequel-heavy and deeply unoriginal movie climate, but despite a plot about a getaway driver running jobs to an impeccable soundtrack, the story and plotting feels surprisingly lingering and low energy.
The movie is distinct from the rest of Wright’s filmography as it diverts a lot of its focus away from comedy, which would be fine if it made up for it in a stronger love story or with more intense action, or even just as a full-faced musical, but it doesn’t do any of that. It’s just sort of a sampler of all of the above.
The love story is set up with very little screen time and a few brief encounters between Baby and love interest Debora, who is tragically underwritten—she’s willing to leave her life behind for a criminal she went on one date with, and when the action picks up, she’s completely sidelined.
This lack of substance might be because the movie was literally inspired by a music video Edgar Wright directed for Mint Royale, which is almost identical to the opening scene of the movie:
Imagine a feature length version of that.
The biggest flaw of this movie is its failure to match the inventiveness of Wright’s other work, which is shocking coming from a director who has mixed and mashed and turned-on-its-head just about every movie genre there is, and to my eyes, has done essentially no wrong thus far.
While there are two or three notable car stunts that are truly stunt driving masterwork, the action in this movie is impeccably choreographed with the soundtrack it’s paired to but doesn’t quite have the big budget feel you might expect of a Hollywood release; it’s almost a disservice to the achievement of the stunt team.
Many of the reviews and reactions I’ve seen for the chase scenes in Baby Driver herald it as a return to classic chase flicks. While that’s a loose genre definition, I think it’s a mistake to put this on par with The French Connection, Death Proof or Ronin. Instead, it’s a very polished and often under-cooked execution.
I can’t stress enough how much I wanted to really love this movie. Hot Fuzz is my go-to, absolute favorite movie of all time, and I went in open to replacing it and left discouraged. That should tell you my hopes were too high for this movie, but I do genuinely think something more inventive and more exciting could have been milked out of this material.
Baby Driver is not a bad movie. It’s just a cutesy (but shockingly R-rated at times), toned-down Edgar Wright movie. You should do the same with your expectations. It just misses out on compelling the audience to feel invested or involved in the action and main characters.
If you want to experience a great soundtrack, a handful of good, punchy one-liners, a couple of fun characters, all in a polished package and are in need of a date night, Baby Driver is worth catching in the theater for a genuinely good time.
Otherwise, it should still be a priority on your streaming watchlist in a few months—it just isn’t the action-packed, mind-blowing chase flick we wanted to be sold on.
(Correction: We originally called the Subaru an STI, but, nope, it’s a regular WRX.)