Baby Driver

‘Baby Driver’ Review: The Wright Stuff

'Baby Driver'

Movie Rating:


‘Baby Driver’ might not even be the biggest Hollywood movie hinged on car chases to hit screens this year, but it’s easily the most joyful flick spat out of the studio machine during popcorn season. Edgar Wright’s latest is a musical cinematic treat set to a killer playlist and featuring some of the most delightful action set-pieces in the career of a filmmaker who even turns teeth brushing into a manic montage.

The movie’s not particularly deep or fresh (even the title is an overt homage to a 1970s Walter Hill flick), but it’s guaranteed to send audiences skipping out of the theater on a cinematic sugar high.

Ansel Elgort stars as the titular Baby. He lives his life according to a series of playlists meticulously arranged on a collection of iPods. His job is as a getaway driver and he uses the music to give his high speed escapes a beat, as well as to drown out the hum left in his ears from a childhood tragedy. He also uses the music to turn daily activities into dance routines. He’s a cute kid. The getaway gig is the result of a debt to a criminal named Doc, played by Kevin Spacey at his snidest. Doc considers the kid his good luck charm, plopping him into jobs with a rotating cast of eccentric criminals including Jon Hamm and Eiza González’s psychotic lovebirds and Jamie Foxx’s tattooed lunatic. Baby isn’t committed to the life of crime. He just wants to get out of debt and have some musical fun behind the wheel. He finds a reason to finally escape this life in diner waitress Deborah (Lily James). It all seems great. But this is a heist movie, so you know he’ll soon be facing ones of those “last jobs” that don’t end well.

From the very beginning of his career, Edgar Wright has been an entertainment-driven director who plays best for critics and cult movie fanatics because his filmmaking is so delightfully self-aware on every level. ‘Baby Driver’ is quite clearly an attempt to deliver something more mainstream and poppy than his usual cult-courting games. However, even when shooting for the mainstream, the guy just can’t help himself. While those who don’t care about craft will just buckle up for a good metal-crunching time, those who pay attention will be rewarded by a candy-colored confection in which every shot, movement and edit is carefully orchestrated to music. The spine-tinglingly delightful pop soundtrack Wright arranged doesn’t just provide a soothing backbeat for the film, it drives almost every scene. Actors walk down the sidewalk with careful choreography, cars fly through streets like dancers in an old Hollywood musical, and even gunshots tend to ring out in time with the beat of the soundtrack. The movie couldn’t be more meticulously constructed in a way that’ll make movie nerds drool, even if it’s all in the name of light entertainment.

The plot is deliberately stripped down and simplistic. The actors are all playing archetypes, and the movie is so heightened and cartoony that the supporting players are given plenty of room to play. Kevin Spacey snarls out his dialogue with a puckish glee that he hasn’t shown in years. John Hamm and Eiza González almost steal away the movie as sociopathic killers that you can’t help but love. Jamie Foxx juggles threatening and frightening tones with such ease that you never know what to expect from him in any scene.

The supporting cast are so damn delightful that it’s almost a shame the leads are so dull. Ansel Elgort and Lily James are certainly as beautiful and charming as the film requires, but their characters just don’t have much depth. Elgort gets some tragic backstory to play out, but he’s mostly a blank slate in a deliberate homage to Walter Hill’s minimalist action classic ‘The Driver’ (a ’70s cult film that also directly inspired Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’). James is essentially just a sweetheart plot device. It’s not a problem for most of the film as Wright defines it by musical montage and heist movie mechanics, but when the script transforms entirely to their story in the finale, things fall flat. Wright’s always had a problem ending his movies and ‘Baby Driver’ sputters out rather than taking off, which is a shame.

Thankfully, a dull central love story and anticlimactic finale aren’t enough to derail all the joys of the film. Working with a fraction of the budget of a ‘Fast and Furious’ flick, Wright delivers some of the finest car chases, shootouts, and action sequences to hit screens in years. He does it with the craft and impact of action classics along with the style and grace of Hollywood musicals.

Like every single Edgar Wright picture, ‘Baby Driver’ is above all else a love letter to the movies. In this case, it’s a blindingly bright joyride through heist movie bliss executed with magical mixture of visual and musical rhythm typically reserved for cinematic musicals. The movie explodes off the screen and seduces viewers into smiling brightly back at all the silliness that the filmmaker can muster. Few directors have the ability to turn comedic genre movies into masterful explorations of film craft like this guy. ‘Baby Driver’ highlights all of Wright’s filmmaking strengths (and screenwriting weaknesses) in a way that should make his fans giddy while also pleasing those who turn out just for a goofy action romp. One day, Wright will use all of his skills for something more meaningful. For now, we can just sit back and enjoy the ride.


  1. Csm101

    I’m hoping this one will satisfy my mostly dissapointed spirits of everything I’ve seen theatrically since the beginning of May.

  2. Bolo

    Edgar Wright is one of those filmmakers whose work I actually feel bad about not liking. He seems like a genuinely nice and passionate fellow who makes the types of movies I normally like watching, he makes them with the sensibilities that I share, and he admirably almost always takes the artistic high road in his approach; yet he never makes a movie that rises above being a cute diversion that I wouldn’t watch twice.

    It’s an odd conflict. I’ll feel bad when ‘Baby Driver’ bombs, but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually see it myself.

    • Timcharger

      Really Josh, saying that Shaun of the Dead is more than a cute diversion, easily rewatchable, that comment is deleted?
      I can’t be as smarmy responding that Bolo and Wright don’t share sensibilities? That’s an egregious insult? I should be able to respond pretentiously, too?

      Don’t make the blog comments environment too sterile.

      • Your comment was needlessly hostile, verging right on the edge of a personal attack. Bickering of that nature will be moderated. If you want to talk about the movie, then talk about the movie. Attacking another person for having different taste than you do is not allowed here.

        • Timcharger

          Edge of a personal attack is… sorry, you and Edgar Wright don’t share sensibilities? (I think I even wrote ‘sorry’.)

          Humble-brag is a word. Pity-mock, I don’t think is, but it gets to my point. One admires, compliments, praises a director, but nothing he makes is rewatchable, and his next movie is a bomb.

          Hey, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll agree that Baby Driver sucks and is not be rewatchable, too.

          • Bolo

            I did not get a chance to read what you wrote and was deleted.

            But yes, I do share a lot of sensibilities with Edgar Wright. We like many of the same movies. And when I hear him talk about how he relates to them, I feel the same way. He actually lent my local cinema his personal print of ‘Death Wish 3’ and introduced it via satellite and we liked the movie in the exact same way.

            I like ridiculous macho action movies. And I have a sense of humour about their preposterousness and machismo. So a movie that affectionately mocks them, like ‘Hot Fuzz’, should be right up my alley. Despite being clever in many places, it didn’t do much for me. I found ‘Team America’ hit that nail on the head and ‘Hot Fuzz’ just kinda missed it by a bit.

            ‘Scott Pilgrim’ was drawing on anime and fighting video games, two things that I really love. I also like musicals, romances, and comedies. So a romantic comedy musical that draws on anime and fighting games should, in theory, make for a great time at the movies for me. But despite a few good gags and neat visuals, it mostly left me cold.

            My post was not intended to mock Wright. There was a bit of pity in there. I’d love for him to live up to what his potential appears to be. And I felt bad for what happened to him with ‘Ant-Man’.

          • Timcharger

            To go from Hot Fuzz didn’t hit the mark for you, or that Scott Pilgrim didn’t win you over… to never made a rewatchable movie; I’d say there’s malice and mockery.

            You comment on Wright’s filmography, but omit the named film in previous comments. Just about every other week is a replay on cable of the “unrewatchable” film Wright is most famous for.

            “I’d feel bad when Baby Driver bombs,” you say. And it certainly may bomb. Just weird to read both of your “feel bad” comments. You felt bad from what happened to him in Ant-Man, like how you’ll feel when Baby Driver bombs. Let’s agree that we both sympathize with Wright if- for me/when- for you Baby Driver bombs.

      • Thulsadoom

        I have similar feelings about Wright. I love his enthusiasm, but I just haven’t warmed to much of his work. Shaun was probably still his best, for me, but even that I’ve watched twice, and that was enough. The initial humour wore thin on second viewing, and it just felt a bit empty. Similarly, Hot fuzz was fun on first viewing, but there’s just something lacking. Perhaps it’s that there’s so much loving homage, that his films cease to be of much interest in their own right, after the initial fun of enjoying the ‘in-joke’. Once you get past that first watch, there’s no substance or depth left to come back to. I felt the same way about La La land. I was more fascinated by the making-of, and the director’s love of musicals, and his effort to make it, than the film itself, which was a bit of an empty shell once you got past the love letter to days of Hollywood past.

        Scott Pilgrim was just a visually amusing mess, and I haven’t felt any desire to see World’s End yet, which is strange, considering the I love almost any scifi, even a lot of cheesy b-movies. 😉 Baby Driver unfortunately has the kind of premise and characters (certainly from the trailer) that leave me with zero desire to see it.

    • Timcharger

      Should I be like Edgar Wright and take the “high road in his approach” and not follow up with the actual box office results confirming if/”when Baby Driver bombs”?

      “It’s an odd conflict”, to want use evidence to confirm beliefs, yet may appear petty and vindictive. How do I convey that I want to only point to the scoreboard, and not spike the football at one’s feet? Maybe by just using leading questions?

      • Bolo

        Or you could try considering that you’ve misread me from the start. It seems like you just want a fight with an Edgar Wright hater and keep trying to paint me as one so you can have that fight.

        There’s a big difference between wishing failure on someone and simply expecting it. I did not expect ‘Baby Driver’ to make anywhere near as much money as it did. That doesn’t mean I wanted it to do poorly. So if gloating about how my box office prediction was incorrect brings you joy, then go for it.

        • Timcharger

          Speaking of joy, Wright’s Baby Driver brought me joy when watching it.

          I do appreciate this nuance you suggested: simply expecting failure versus wishing failure upon others. Hey Wright, I don’t hate you. I only expected that you will fail. See, I’m no hater. I didn’t use any genie wishes to bring upon failure for you.

          • Tim, please back down. Bolo has not said anything particularly controversial, and should not be ridiculed over a simple difference of opinion.

            Further, Bolo had every reason to expect that Baby Driver would fail at the box office. All of Edgar Wright’s films have been box office failures in North America. His movies are typically made for devoted but small cult audiences. Added to that, this one has a weird title, a goofy concept, and its lead star is virtually unknown. Frankly, it’s shocking that the movie did so well in its opening weekend.

          • Timcharger

            Josh, your opinion would be shared by me, if Wright was given $134 million to make Baby Driver. Or half that at $67 million. But with a $34 million budget, I don’t think the financiers expected failure.

            Plus the home video sales from the cult following, that’s doesn’t add up to obviously “expecting failure.” It’s shocking HOW well it did during it’s opening weekend, that I agree. But success/failure depends greatly by the budget. So no, its failure was not a given.

  3. I saw Baby Driver last night and loved it. It really was the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time. And, it just goes to show that all the crap that Michael Bay gets is well deserved. Edgar Wright proves you can make an exciting, entertaining, high octane action movie without sacrificing heart, good writing, solid acting, characters development and stunts that thrill versus slam cut CGI editing that devolves into a giant, swirling, mind numbing mess.

    For the most part, I totally agree with your review. However, I must push back a little on this, “The supporting cast are so damn delightful that it’s almost a shame the leads are so dull. Ansel Elgort and Lily James are certainly as beautiful and charming as the film requires, but their characters just don’t have much depth.” While I’ll grant you that Lily James as Debora is less of a fully realized character than a certain archetype setup as a plot point, I actually think Elgort did an amazing job. Consider he’s only 23 and this is really his first lead role – his performance is all the more admirable. He carried a film with a supporting cast that is very well known and incredibly talented; he was on screen for nearly the entire run time and I can’t think of any other young actor who’d have better played Baby. The kid’s raw charisma and confidence is pretty damn impressive, if you ask me.

    To quote Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, “Since Baby is a man of few words, Elgort uses his expressive eyes as a window into Baby’s heart. It’s a challenging beast of a role and Elgort just crushes it.”

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed the film as much as I did – I always look forward to your reviews. Cheers!

  4. Quick question for the reviewer or anyone who’s seen the movie. My wife wants to see the movie, but she has a pretty low tolerance for violence. Anything past PG13 is a usually a little much for her, though she did enjoy The Nice Guys. What would be a comparable movie violence wise? Thanks!

    • Csm101

      Gun shots, blood, an impalement. People getting hit by cars, but no gore. Nice Guys violence is more or less on par with this one.

        • Csm101

          No, it’s intense because it catches you off guard, but it doesn’t linger on the ugliness of it.
          I don’t want to say too much more because I’m treading spoilers stuff, but I think it’s a great date movie with a little something for everyone. There’s stuff on network tv that’s much more violent than this.

    • James Mckinnon

      From IMDB’s Violence & Gore section on the movie:

      “Strong violence throughout the entire film. However, the camera never lingers therefore a lot of the scenes are not gory.

      A character opens up his car trunk to reveal a dead body. Not too gory, a blood stain on his shirt.

      A character runs over another character and then runs over his body again a few moments later.

      Scenes depicting theft such as robberies and carjacking. Many mass shootings take place throughout.”

  5. Pedram

    I kinda feel bad for not liking this. I normally love or really like all this movies (Scott Pilgrim is one of my all-time favourites).
    This one started out great for me, but kept going downhill after about the half way point. By the end I was left thinking “what was the point?”. Great first half though, especially the opening scene.

  6. Timcharger

    Minor nitpick…


    Kevin Spacey’s character arc…
    …I didn’t like that. It was not a curved arc, it was a drastic u-turn of character change. (Driving puns intended.) For Baby to so quickly and easily accept Spacey’s change of heart, it bothered me. Baby should have been more suspicious and have a game plan to outwit Spacey, other than to gamble that he will change to be a good guy, because Spacey “was once in love, too.”

    • Timcharger

      Another nitpick…


      Spacey revealed that he never uses the same crew twice. And in Baby’s final job, Spacey brings back Foxx, Hamm, and González. Seems like Baby Driver is missing a scene where Baby would confront Spacey, why reuse crew members? Spacey emphasized that Baby is his only lucky charm. Perhaps I missed this scene?

      • Pedram

        Also, why did Baby not just take the out and cancel the job when he had the chance, instead of going ahead with it and then just trying to bail one everyone? He could have just canceled and been home free with the girl and his money.

        • Timcharger

          I got the sense that if they got another driver, Baby would end up in the trunk of a car to be compacted. Home free with the girl, I don’t think would be an option especially with Jamie Foxx in the crew.

          • Pedram

            It seemed like there was a legit out, since the boss wanted to cancel too. Seems like Foxx’s character killed people in the crew who messed up. Maybe I read it wrong though.

          • Timcharger

            Kevin Spacey wanting to cancel the job, but Jamie Foxx didn’t. And minutes earlier Foxx went psycho against a building full of armed men, so I’m thinking Baby voted to keep the job going to diffuse the tension and possible shootout. Baby planned to run away at 2 am anyway. ICBW.

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