If you love fabulous car chase scenes, don’t mind a bit of mayhem with a bit of gore thrown in, and are really into every kind of pop music you can think of, you will go crazy over “Baby Driver.” This is one of the most original movies to grace the silver screen in recent memory, and I seriously suspect it is on its way to become a cult movie. It is that good.
You would think that by now we have seen every sort of car chase scene that could possibly be imagined, but the chase in the opening fifteen minutes of this film is original and beyond thrilling. It all starts with Baby (Ansel Elgort – “The Fault in Our Stars”) behind the wheel of a red souped-up Subaru. He is plugged into his ear buds pounding out the rhythm of “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Exposition while his three passengers (Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Eiza González) pull off a heist at a bank. Once the thieves are safely inside the car, Baby cranks up the music and the chase begins with some totally incredible driving stunts and very clever diversions. Throughout the chase, Baby is completely in control and as relaxed as if he were taking a Sunday cruise down the freeway.
Awaiting the foursome at a remote warehouse is the mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) who insists on giving Baby an equal share of the proceeds and then clandestinely takes most of Baby’s share as partial satisfaction of an old debt Baby owes to Doc. Doc likens it to taking candy from a baby – which it clearly and figuratively is. We learn that Baby is being raised by his deaf black foster father (CJ Jones) who is not at all pleased with Baby’s activities, as Baby stashes his cash under a floor board in the run down tenement apartment they share. But Baby believes that once his debt to Doc is paid – only one more heist – he will be free of this obligation to Doc. Of course, nothing is that simple, which speaks volumes about Baby’s naiveté.
The final heist is complicated by a loose cannon named “Bats,” brilliantly played by Jamie Foxx. Bats is certifiably crazy and ends up shooting up Doc’s arms suppliers before seriously jeopardizing the final heist of money orders from a local post office.
While all this action is taking place, there is a backbeat love story that is charmingly reminiscent of the 50’s. Baby meets the girl of his dreams waitressing at the local diner. Debora (Lily James) has the same fixation on music as Baby, and they hit it off from the get go. In fact, they plan to drive off together and never look back. Doc has other plans for Baby and makes it clear that he will never let Baby off the hook.
Director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) set out to create a movie set to music – or was it a lot of music with a film thrown in? There are no less than 71 songs featured in the movie – everything from Dave Brubeck to James Brown; Simon and Garfunkel to Queen. And it all fits perfectly into the action-packed script. Pop music fanatics will love putting the songs together with the movie scenes to see how well they sync. It is a music treasure trove. We seldom see Baby without his ear buds and an assortment of I-pods to suit his musical moods.
Elgort is perfectly cast in this film, and his innocent and somewhat naïve relationship with Lily James is positively charming, nostalgically capturing all the innocence of young love. All of the characters are well-cast, with each of the villains possessing an underlying explosiveness which threatens to pop at any minute and send all carefully planned events into oblivion.
There is some wonderful humor in the film juxtaposed against the tenacity of a super villain who simply refuses to die. It makes for an exciting final conflict. There is a lot of meat to this movie as well as fabulous stunt scenes. As writer/director Worth would have it, there is also a very satisfying ending. This is a film not to be missed.