Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 30, 2017

‘Baby Driver’ is pure cinematic joy

It’s been 30 minutes since I saw “Baby Driver,” the new genre-smasher from writer and director Edgar Wright, and I’m still humming the soundtrack. “Radar Love” by Golden Earring is spinning on my mental turntable.

When I close my eyes, I see a red Subaru WRX Sedan performing a four-wheel drift as cop cars try in vain to keep up. Behind the wheel is Baby, the getaway driver, working the car like it’s an extension of his body.

My eyes still closed, I hear music again (this time, it’s “Brighton Rock” by Queen), the mad squeal of rubber on road and the kerchunk of Baby working the gearshift and gas and brake pedals, and I see the camera work, the movements of the characters and the editing matching the audio beat for beat. Together, they establish a rhythm that’s precise and energetic.

“Baby Driver” is 1 hour, 53 minutes of pure, joyous cinema that stays with you long after the credits begin to roll.

I’ll begin where Wright does, with Baby in the driver’s seat of the Subaru, waiting for his cargo. His earbuds are pumping an upbeat tune to his drums and he’s mouthing the words and moving his hands over the curves of the interior like it’s a dance and the car is a woman. Long stretches of “Baby Driver” play like a beautifully choreographed stealth musical.

When Baby’s cargo arrives – three thieves who just pulled off a bank heist – he snaps to attention and is off to the races. The chase that ensues is poetry in motion with driving stunts that nearly lifted me off my seat in excitement. Before this scene was over, I was making plans to see the movie again.

The story: Baby is a young man with preternatural driving skills and a constant hum in his ears as the result of a childhood incident. To cover up the sound, he plays music nonstop. Baby works for Doc, the criminal mastermind behind a series of bank robberies. He’s an unwilling participant, though, as Baby is beholden to Doc for an earlier episode.

One day, Deborah, a waitress in a café, walks into Baby’s life. A romance blossoms between the two and Baby promises to take her away and drive until they run out of road. Doc catches wind of his plan and won’t have it. High-octane action ensues.

I don’t believe there’s a single cinematic note that Wright doesn’t hit spot on in “Baby Driver.”

I’ve already mentioned the marriage of action and music. But there’s also the comedy. A scene in which a different group of crooks hired by Doc mistakenly wear Austin Powers masks instead of masks of Michael Meyers, the psycho killer from “Halloween,” is a hoot.

“Baby Driver” isn’t all laughs and giggles, though. Things grow dark toward the end as Wright pumps up the suspense. He does such a good job of pulling the rug out from under the feet of his characters, there’s a point at which I thought the movie was going to pull a “Bonnie and Clyde.”

“Baby Driver” also has heart. The sweet relationship between Baby and his aging foster father tells you everything you need to know about who Baby really is. Even the bond between Baby and Doc has a familial undertone that eventually rises to the surface.

Finally, “Baby Driver” is filled with perfectly calibrated performances. Jamie Foxx kills it as Bats, an impulsive, trigger happy member of Doc’s crew. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be nervous when he was onscreen, which I’m sure was Wright’s intention.

Every time Lily James lit up the screen with her luminescent presence as Baby’s love interest, I smiled.

I also liked Kevin Spacey’s turn as Doc, although his theatrical line delivery took some getting used to.

Finally, there’s Ansel Elgort, who’s proven in movies like “The Fault in Our Stars” and the “Divergent” series that he has charisma to spare. Here, he proves he can disappear into a character, inhabit him and turn in a performance as natural as living.

What else can I say? Perhaps this:

Apart from “Wonder Woman,” this has been a dismal summer at the movies. The studios have served up sequel after uninspired sequel, only to see diminishing returns as audiences expressed their boredom with more of the same by staying home and binging Netflix.

But “Baby Driver” is a thrilling burst of creativity – a film that’s fresh and exciting and fun. You can take any single component – the music, the action, the performances – and that alone would be worth the price of admission. But taken together, “Baby Driver” gives you a very good reason to get off your couch and go to the movies.

3.5 stars out of 4