If you ask a fan of Edgar Wright’s to describe which genre any given movie of his falls into, they’ll probably struggle to tell you. Rather than being clearly defined by the narrative and stylistic divisions between genres, Wright’s movies all tend to feature a balance of several simultaneously, and Baby Driver is no different. Is it a romance? A heist caper? A coming-of-age story? All the aforementioned, actually, but more important than any genre it may fall into is the stylistic vision Wright has crafted, and he has crafted it very well.
The story follows a young and quiet getaway driver named Baby (Yeah, Baby, B-A- B- Y), who apparently has incredibly good taste in music on his most important companions: his impressive collection of iPods – but, we’ll delve more into that later. As his great tracks are superimposed over the fast-paced scenes a, budding romance takes shape while Baby tries to extricate himself from the life of crime he happens to be naturally good at, but that he didn’t choose for himself. As can be expected, nothing goes according to plan and rather than quietly disappearing into the sunset with his new better half, Baby has to contend with all manner of obstacles; a funny but psychopathic Jamie Foxx, for one, and a brutal task-master played by Kevin Spacey. It’s an enjoyably simple, and somewhat old-fashioned story, but one that comes wrapped in a very modern and topical aesthetic where Wright has thoughtfully chosen every feature.
Everything about the movie is quite clearly meticulously planned, nothing is on screen by accident – the shots and editing are both extremely tidy and carry the story along in a brisk fashion. If one wanted to criticise something, it might be that the mechanical and well-planned nature of the visuals can occasionally overwhelm the story — there are a few quick moments where the ingenuity or novelty of a particular shot or scene is complex enough to drown out what it is supposed to communicate. Generally, though, the fun and slick nature of the scenes are far more significant than any possibility to overwhelm the viewer.
As mentioned a little earlier, the visual elements, while they’re unique and fun, are possibly not the crux of this movie. Usually a score exists to serve what is seen on screen, but in the curious case of Baby Driver that norm is surprisingly reversed – and to great effect. Many scenes in the movie are crafted so that they’re congruent and synchronised with its songs, rather than having songs that merely complement the events within the scenes. Apart from the incredibly fun experience it provides from an editing perspective, each song is amazing in its own right and gives not only an audial representation of what’s happening on-screen, but also just a bit of a history lesson in good music.
The cast is well-rounded and all the stars hit the mark with their performances, but the star of the show is definitely Ansel Elgort; probably best known for his roles in The Fault in our Stars and the Divergent series. He does a good job of making Baby an effortlessly cool character that stays a relatable protagonist. The rest of the cast; from Kevin Spacey’s mobster-uncle type character “Doc” to Jamie Foxx’s hilariously unhinged “Bats”, all of Elgort’s costars blend action and drama easily into frequently sharp comedy – not unlike Wright’s Hot Fuzz. The pacing in the last third of the movie seemed to stall a little but it’s nothing a couple of good songs didn’t cure.
Overall Baby Driver is a crowd-pleaser and incorporates elements from several genres into a fun ride almost as fast as Baby’s Subaru. If none of the genres that this mash-up consists of interest you, the way Wright managed to have his scenes conducted by the soundtrack is more than worth the price of admission. While Baby Driver may not necessarily be a cult hit among fans of Wright’s other projects, it’s going to be a smash hit with general audiences for its sheer enjoyability and great tunes.