Geeks like me have been bitching about director Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man exodus for several years now. Wright was hard at work on Ant-Man for the better part of a decade, but left abruptly during production due to “creative differences.”
My initial reaction to that news was: “Farts!”
We wound up getting an OK Ant-Man from director Peyton Reed, while Wright announced his next project would be a car-chase movie, written by himself. The final product is Baby Driver, starring Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver with tinnitus—and it truly is a great time.
It’s a nice antidote to The Fate of the Furious, a movie that made me never want to see a car-chase movie again. The Baby Driver soundtrack is one of the year’s best, and the guy in the title role is a major star in the making.
Elgort plays Baby; we see him in the film’s opening sequence driving the getaway car for a robbery, a kinetic chase choreographed to the great Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms.” The scene snaps with a colorful energy that’s been missing from car-chase films of late.
The best car-chase movie in recent years, Drive, also featured a lonely driver and great vroom-vroom scenes, but the soundtrack and look for that film were more meditative and hazy. (I’m not complaining; it worked beautifully.) Baby Driver opts for a more clear-eyed, zippy approach, and it pays off.
Baby winds up on various crews run by a criminal kingpin played by Kevin Spacey, here reliving the angrier portion of his Glengarry Glen Ross role. Baby owes the man, and he has to drive until he pays him off—at least that’s what he thinks the deal is.
The chases go off with precision editing, and are filmed in a way that makes you feel like you are in the car. The soundtrack, featuring music ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to Focus to Queen, perfectly complements the scenes.
The supporting cast includes Lily James, who enchants as Baby’s love interest, diner-waitress Debora. (Cue the Beck song.) Jon Hamm gets a chance to go psycho as Buddy, a role that is deceptively laid back until Baby flips his switch. Jamie Foxx has a killer turn as Bats, the hothead of the crew who is equal parts smart and paranoid maniac. In one of the year’s great cameos, the one and only Paul Williams (the man who penned The Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection”!) shows up as a gun dealer. I’m a child of the ’70s, and I love that little guy!
Wright has called the movie an homage to the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Heat and The Blues Brothers. He also cites Point Break, an influence that is evident in the use of Halloween masks during heists, and the presence of Flea as one of the robbers. In a different sort of homage, Elgort sports a jacket that has a Han Solo look to it—perhaps a nod to the fact that he was in the running for the role of young Han Solo last year.
If you plan on seeing Baby Driver in theaters, make sure that theater has a premium sound system. The one I saw it in had sound that was a little too muddy and soft. There was no bass in my theater. I was a little sad.
The summer movie season had stalled out a bit after that Transformers fiasco, but Baby Driver gets things back on track. Does this movie make up for the loss of Wright on Ant-Man? Nah; I’m still going to bitch about that. But it is a nice addition to the Wright movie canon, and proof that the guy can do no wrong.
Baby Driver is playing at theaters across the valley.