Overview: A getaway driver with a troubled past falls in love with a waitress and attempts to leave his life of crime behind him. TriStar Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 113 minutes.
Keep the Car Running: Serving as Writer-Director Edgar Wright’s first feature film since The Cornetto Trilogy wrapped up with The World’s End in 2013, Baby Driver comes screeching into theaters at the behest of what are sure to be wildly high-set expectations. The English filmmaker has long been a cult favorite among genre enthusiasts and cinephiles in general, thanks in no small part to such masterful early 20th century opuses as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Ever since his original comedy series Spaced initially premiered on Channel 4 in the UK in 1999, fans of Wright’s sharply edited and wickedly sophomoric skewerings of pop culture commodities and the people who lap them up has proven to be the real revelation of a century peppered by lesser American made comedies.
In Baby Driver, Wright delivers in every way that fans have come to expect, while simultaneously managing to offer something that at first appears to come out of left field. Abandoning his usual stable of players originally curated for Spaced in favor of a bullpen full of handpicked Hollywood talent, Baby Driver roars out of the gate with a wholly different engine under its hood. Stand out performances from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm slightly alter the general proceedings in a motion picture that should appeal more immediately to American audiences than any of Wright’s past efforts. Nevertheless, Wright’s penchant for snidely referencing film history persists in Baby Driver, with brief cameo appearances from singer-songwriter and actor Paul Williams and acclaimed filmmaker Walter Hill that steep the film in an unparalleled cinematic literacy.
Revving the Engine: As the film’s central protagonist and eponymous star, Ansel Elgort serves as the driver of the feel good hit of the summer. Elgort paces the screen in Baby Driver in a nondescript manner that serves to echo the illusive nature of his day job, thus lending most of the screen to the action, subterfuge, and mayhem that surrounds him. While his character’s motivations are never entirely explored beyond a routine backstory established via a series of flashbacks, his steely resolve behind the wheel makes his journey one worth riding shotgun for.
As the engine of any one of his chosen getaway vehicles revs its engine with a recurrent sonorous roar, Elgort plays the entire situation off like a layman forced to contend with a series of progressively dire stakes. Even if some Wright fans might miss the witty banter previously established between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the director’s most iconic work to date, Elgort and company prove for another entirely thrilling ensemble cast that perform well under Wright’s pell-mell visual athleticism.
Shifting Gears: Baby Driver is sure to earn praise from Wright’s most devoted acolytes, and it’s abundantly easy to see why. His latest motion picture is a downright fun action-comedy that doubles down on both fast-paced choreography and sardonic repartee. In much the same way that Wright previously delivered an unconventional comic book adaptation in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver samples a variety of American tropes and character archetypes and repackages them in unfamiliar wrapping.
Wright never shies away from pushing the boundaries of what is a fairly straight forward narrative, and in many of the best creative moments in Baby Driver make the film truly shine as one of the best theatrical releases from the past couple of years. Baby Driver uproariously upends expectations while delivering a tightly-constructed moviegoing experience that immediately begs to seen again and again. Rather than laying out all of his cards in one go, Wright playfully spins his latest motion picture into an immediately pleasing puzzle box full of wonders that couldn’t possibly be catalogued after just one viewing.
Overall: Baby Driver is sure to please fans of Edgar Wright’s past work behind the camera, and masterfully moves the acclaimed filmmaker outside the territory previously explored in his much beloved Cornetto Trilogy.
Featured Image: TriStar Pictures