Twenty-one years ago, Baby Driver writer and director Edgar Wright was living in North London, broke and quite possibly on rock bottom when he had an epiphany while listening to “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It was at that moment that he decided that the track would be perfect in a car chase for a movie.
Fast-forward to 2017, where Wright saw his vision come to fruition in the opening scene of Baby Driver as the titular character (Ansel Elgort) drifts and weaves through Atlanta traffic while avoiding the police as he helps his team escape following a bank heist, putting the audience immediately on their seat.
While The Fast and the Furious franchise has existed for 16 years now, Baby Driver is a breath of fresh air into the car heist action drama that stands alone from its peers.
Baby is a young, but talented getaway driver who carries a quiet demeanor and both a love and need for music as it helps drown out the tinnitus that he received while in a car accident that killed both of his parents at a young age.
Although he is the ace getaway driver, it isn’t by choice as it is revealed that he stole a car from Doc (Kevin Spacey), the man behind all of these heists who catches Baby in the act and forces him to pay off the debt.
Baby eventually finds love (and the motivation to get out of the life of crime) in Debora (Lily James), a waitress at the diner he frequents, but even as he tries to exit the life, Doc sucks him right back in – by force.
While the film makes a point to mention that the heist crew is “never the same,” three common characters appear in multiple heists, Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and his lover Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). While Buddy and Darling are obsessed with one another, they are even-keel on the heists while Bats is completely unhinged and brutal as Foxx essentially reprises his role from Horrible Bosses.
Although heists can quickly go bad and resort to violence, Baby seems to be above it all, going out of his way to avoid unnecessarily harming someone and keeping his hands clean while operating behind the wheel. The higher ground causes a bit of a rift with the rest of the crew, who believe that Baby feels he is better than the rest of them, and in a sense he is. While he is a criminal, he is not a bad person and it is shown multiple times throughout the film.
While the crew may see Baby as pretentious, the same can’t be said for Doc. Although he coerces Baby throughout the film, it is shown that deep down he does care for Baby. In the end, the crew all have a one-track mind and simple motivation to perform these heists while Baby’s obvious lack of desire for these jobs shows the complexity of his character.
What really drives the movie, however, are the action scenes, all of which are synchronized with a soundtrack that doesn’t slave itself to one genre, but instead offers a potpourri of songs blasting out of the headphones of Baby’s iPod classics (and yes, he has several) for you to enjoy while wondering how exactly the crew will get themselves out of this mess. Not every action scene involves a car though, as one of the best scenes in the film is a foot chase through downtown Atlanta.
Wright also does a great job showing us life through Baby’s ears as you can hear the humming of his tinnitus every time the headphones are out or the music is off. Even the viewer can’t wait for the next track to be played.
In the end, the film shows that Wright is not pigeon-holed into the Brit-com genre that made him famous, but that he can make a thriller of an action film as well. Baby Driver presents a similar plot to Drive, but much less violent (and graphic) and significantly better action scenes.