No one can accuse Edgar Wright of lacking ambition. After cutting his action-directing teeth on the Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim (but alas, not Ant-Man), he’s moved up a level, producing one of the best – not to mention most original – action movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best – not to mention most reluctant – getaway driver in the business. Following a youthful indiscretion, he finds himself in debt to gangster Doc (a wonderfully menacing Kevin Spacey) and must work for him until he’s paid off his debt.
He also suffers from tinnitus, and rather than endure the ringing in his ears, he instead chooses to constantly listen to music, a gimmick which allows Wright to fill the movie with the best soundtrack since Guardians of the Galaxy. It also provides the movie’s USP – a series of brilliantly choreographed sequences, with chases, gunfights and even scenes of Baby getting coffee or making a sandwich set to music. Footsteps, wheel spins and even gunshots are all perfectly timed to Wright’s eclectic soundtrack, which includes everything from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to T. Rex and The Commodores. There’s even a sequence set to Queen’s Brighton Rock which almost matches the mighty Don’t Stop Me Now scene in Shaun of the Dead for perfectly choreographed brilliance.
Needless to say Baby is not happy with his situation, and when he meets waitress Debora (Lily James) he resolves to quit his reluctant life of crime and start anew with her. Although all of Wright’s previous films have been focused on male characters, he’s always found good roles for women, with the likes of Rosamund Pike and Mary Elizabeth Winstead having excelled in his work. It’s a shame here then that James’ role is underwritten, with Baby and Debora’s romance never coming off as convincing. They meet, fall instantly in love, and plan to escape together, but it feels like a plot device more than heartfelt. (The sole other female character of note – one of Spacey’s crew, played by Eiza González is equally under-served). It’s one of the few weak points in an otherwise excellent film.
Better served are Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and an all-too-brief Jon Bernthal. All members of Spacey’s crew, they have great fun playing bad. Hamm, in particular, is excellent, creating a character a world away from Don Draper. Foxx also excels, with his menacing turn one of the film’s highlights. Elgort – graduating from teen drivel like The Fault in Our Stars – is a likeable if unremarkable lead, and while no Simon Pegg or Michael Cera, provides a worthwhile addition to Wright’s rosta of unconventional leading men.
As with all Wright’s films, the disc comes loaded with the kind of comprehensive, in-depth special features normally reserved for established classics. A couple of commentaries (both a solo from Wright and the director alongside DoP Bill Pope) are the centrepiece, alongside plentiful deleted scenes, animatics, storyboards, featurettes and Wright’s video for Mint Royale’s Blue Song (featuring Noel Fielding) – the primary inspiration for the film.
Baby Driver may not quite hit the heights of Shaun or Hot Fuzz, but it’s bursting with invention, stunning action and killer tunes. It’s another great film from one of the most innovative, interesting directors working today, and one of the treats of the year.
BABY DRIVER / DIRECTOR: EDGAR WRIGHT / SCREENPLAY: EDGAR WRIGHT / STARRING: ANSEL ELGORT, LILY JAMES, KEVING SPACEY, JON HAMM, JAMIE FOXX / CERT: 15 / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 13TH