Not since his cinematic debut in 1995 with A Fistful of Fingers has Edgar Wright been the sole credited writer on one of his films. Baby Driver, a crime caper set to the beat of the getaway driver’s iPod, is an idea that dates back to that very same year. The 22 year delay between inception and release is a blessing, allowing him to refine his technique. The result is one of the best films this summer.
When Baby (Answel Elgort), a young getaway driver from Atlanta, was young his parents were killed in a tragic car crash. He was lucky to walk away but has suffered from severe tinnitus ever since. To drown out the ringing in his ears he listens to music on a wide range of iPods, presumably from the cars he has stolen. One of those cars belonged to mastermind criminal Doc (Kevin Spacey) and Baby has been paying him back ever since by driving on his jobs.
Wright wastes no time in getting down to it, we open to Baby and his team pulling up to a bank. The camera cuts to his iPod and he presses play on The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s hit song Bellbottoms. From this moment on every movement is to the beat, even the gunshots and shouts. Rather than watch the robbery unfold we see Baby lipsync and dance away, almost ignorant to what his team is doing. Contrary to what Elgort’s recent song release might suggest, he isn’t a thief.
Once they get back to their headquarters, Doc distributes the money equally and they head their separate ways. Jon Bernthal, who plays one of the crew, was a top-billed actor whose name appears on every poster. As they leave he says “If you don’t see me again, it’s because I’m dead”. His character is not seen again during the film. It’s small details like these that keep viewers coming back, hoping to spot something new each time.
Baby finishes paying his debt back after the next heist and he wants out. No longer does Doc have leverage on him. He is free to live his life on his own terms, even meeting a waitress at a diner called Debora (Lily James) and falling in love. Naturally Doc won’t let him go that easily, having never failed a job when he has been driving. The promise of an equal cut of the earnings doesn’t sway him, but rather unsurprisingly the threat to kill his girlfriend and foster father makes him fall back into line. The next target? A post office.
Later on in the film when the relationship between Baby and Debora is established, they are always seen wearing black and white outfits. Their romance has a timeless feel because of this, especially when juxtaposed with the bright outfits of his fellow crew, especially Jamie Foxx. His outfits are mostly red, symbolic of his tendency to kill or threaten to kill just about every person he meets.
Baby Driver is overflowing with slick car chases, snappy dialogue and pop culture references all set to a meticulously edited to a fantastic soundtrack. My only quibble is fatigue. Two hours of constantly tapping your foot and nodding your head is simply exhausting, who knew.