Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a gloriously entertaining epic obviously influenced by car-chase classics from Bullitt and Vanishing Point to Driver (especially) and The Blues Brothers but, nevertheless, just as obviously emanates from his pop-culture-crammed imagination.
Like Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ entries (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), it offers a sometimes brilliantly witty script that could take several viewings to properly appreciate, as well as a star cast that jokingly overwhelmed him and breathless old-school action sequences reportedly staged without FX and surely pretty damn dangerous.
An opening bank robbery is set to the tune of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms and introduces the cast of cool criminals, with young pro getaway-driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) getting Buddy (Jon Hamm), his wife Darling (Eiza González) and hothead Griff (Jon ‘The Punisher’ Bernthal) to safety. An impossibly long and delicious tracking shot further introduces us to Baby, as he walks through the streets of Atlanta to the tune of Bob & Earl’s original Harlem Shuffle, and it’s so clever (and so obviously a winking reference to Shaun) that you can’t help but grin.
Baby has traumatic memories of his late mum and owes a debt to baddie mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey in smoothly nasty form), and he believes that he’s on his final job when he’s the driver for another heist alongside Eddie (Flea), JD (Lanny Joon) and the unpredictable Bats (Jamie Foxx, killing it), but when it goes pear-shaped, he’s glad that he’s all paid up and can get out. He’s so happy, in fact, that he allows himself to get close to a sweet waitress named Debora (Lily James), and this looks set to be a serious problem when Doc comes back insisting that he take the wheel once more. After all, he enjoys being the driver, doesn’t he?
Sometimes wonderfully exciting, and brimming with a wild energy that makes many of the action highlights almost preposterously enjoyable, this has exceptional work from Elgort (so glum everywhere else), James (maybe underwritten but strong anyway), the formidable Foxx and Hamm in what must be his best ever movie role. But it’s the way that Wright uses the mostly retro soundtrack here that’s so fabulous, with elaborate and comic setpieces set to the tune of prime tracks by T-Rex, Isaac Hayes, Golden Earring (of course), Queen (just like in Shaun) and many more. If ever there was a soundtrack to blast out your eardrums with, it’s this one.
One of the best movies of 2017 so far? Absolutely, baby!
Rated MA. Baby Driver is in cinemas now