British writer and director Edgar Wright burst onto the cinema scene after the success of a celebrated sitcom at the turn of the millennium, and he hasn’t looked back since, now making movies across the Atlantic stamped with his signature style. His latest feature is crime caper Baby Driver and it’s probably his biggest production to date. The plot centres around title character Baby (Ansel Elgort) who works as a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a cunning heist mastermind with a penchant for violence. At a local diner, he kindles a romance with waitress Debora (Lily James), and the pair plan to set off on a road trip together; that is of course, after he carries out one last job for his kingpin boss.
The USP of the film is the excellent soundtrack and how it is used as a storytelling device that drives the narrative. Baby suffers from tinnitus and constantly listens to music to drown out what Doc refers to as ‘the hum in the drum’. From the offset, the tunes are sharply edited in time with what is happening on screen, with the exhilarating action of car-chase sequences cleverly reacting to the rhythm of the beat. From a technical standpoint, it is quite masterfully executed by Wright who conveys refreshing playfulness and creativity amongst his trademark tricks of the match-cuts and the like. The novelty does begin to wear off eventually as the story itself is run-of-the-mill, paling in comparison to the way in which it is told.
There’s a motley crew of misfits to enjoy with an all-star cast to portray them, but some become lost in the flurry of the filmmaking. Elgort should come across as confident and charming as the cocksure protagonist but strays so close to arrogance that he becomes rather unlikeable. Where the more traditional villains are concerned, Spacey reliably does what he does best, giving an Underwood-with-a-twist turn as a ruthless string-puller. Jon Hamm is the stand-out from the supporting cast and oozes coolness throughout as Buddy, a bank robber with more depth and substance than first meets the eye. As the film reaches its typically bonkers Edgar-esque final act, he switches gear and revels in the ridiculousness, giving a genuinely memorable performance.
Baby Driver is an entertaining thrill-ride with no shortage of smarts, Wright proving himself as one of the most interesting technical filmmakers around. Where the film falters in the lack of originality of the well-worn story structure and the underdevelopment of the characters, it makes up for in the stylish cut of its jib, with the expert craftmanship taking centre stage.