With Baby Driver, the always excellent Edgar Wright has pulled off the ultimate caper; he’s waltzed right into his own filmography and boosted the “Best Movie” award right out from under all of his others. Hmm, that was a tortured metaphor. Baby Driver is Wright’s best movie, OK? That’s what I’m getting at. The cast is really great. I’ve been an Elgort skeptic in the past (I thought he was a big problem in The Fault In Our Stars), but he’s very good here. Lily James is typically wonderful and Kevin Spacey is good as always. And a word for Eiza Gonzalez who exudes a serious sexy, slinky vibe as Darling. Jon Hamm & Jamie Foxx are the standouts, I think. Foxx gives his best performance in a very long time, one of his best ever, as the unhinged Bats, a character genuinely menacing and scary while also being surprisingly minimal. Foxx plays him pretty quietly, not like a cartoon psycho, and it works. He’s central to a couple of the film’s most suspenseful scenes, a gripping scene in a diner and a face off in a warehouse. Hamm, meanwhile, gives his best cinematic performance as the affable Buddy; his character has a real arc in the film and Hamm manages to slowly strip away his natural charm to take the character in some surprising directions. I’ve been kind of bummed at the movies Hamm has gotten since his Don Draper days, but this is finally a role worthy of him and he kills it.
Wright pulls something off here that most filmmakers seemingly can’t; he crafts a balls to the wall, pure energy action film and then imbues it with real emotional heft. The film is the romantic story of a 1940s tragic film noir told through the haze of an all-encompassing sugar high. Some of the action scenes here are just astoundingly great. The climactic bank robbery leads into a chase that seems to go on for an insanely long time and yet it never flags or loses energy. The soundtrack to the film is fantastic; it’s also, and I think this is key, not just the same old hits that usually underscore action scenes. Even with the same old selections, Wright could, I think, bring something new to the game with the way he lines the movie up to the beat of the music, but he chooses to go with songs you don’t hear as often and that really works. Something as simple as Baby delivering coffee gets turned into a delightful ballet by Wright’s interplay with the music and the action gets amped up too. But amidst action sequences that could easily feel cartoonish, Wright finds real suspense and intensity specifically because these characters feel so fully realized that you’re constantly wondering what they’re going to do and, anyway, you actually care about them. It’s a great action movie but the character work is very well done. Against all odds, I found the story of Baby and Debora to be one of the most compelling “young love” tales in recent cinematic memory and Hamm & Wright create a masterful supporting character in Buddy and imbue him with a compelling amount of emotion. Wright takes his camera on a crazy ride and gets our hearts to go along with it. Quite a feat. This is a filmmaker operating at levels of near perfection. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Wright is at near perfect level with this intense, amped up action-thriller that boasts great characters, great music & a singular, beautiful vision of what an action movie should be. 4 stars.