By Érico Lotufo
BU News Service
While “stylish action flick” has become an overused description of any action comedy with a cool soundtrack, probably none wears that description on their sleeve more than “Baby Driver,” the newest film from Edgar Wright.
Wright keeps the action movie pace by establishing a pretty simple plot to move the gears: Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a gifted getaway driver working for kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pay off an old debt. As he gets closer to settling, Baby meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress that finally gives him something to live for outside of his lucrative yet apparently meaningless criminal life.
However, as he plans on getting out, Doc calls him for one last job that needs his special set of skills.
Joining them is a dangerous group of professional criminals that walk the line between being stone-cold sociopaths and charismatic anti-heroes. Bats (Jamie Foxx) is the most trigger-happy of the bunch, scary and yet still likeable just by Foxx’s sheer magnetic screen presence; Buddy (Jon Hamm), on the other hand, forms a tag team duo with his wife Darling (Eiza González), showing both a knack for murder and an excessive amount of PDA.
But the colorful cast wouldn’t work without someone to put all those personalities into focus, and Ansel Elgort’s Baby achieves that perfectly. His quiet, timid mannerisms make him a hard nut to crack and each partner-in-crime takes turns trying to understand who Baby is and what his plans are. Bats thinks he’s still green, not ready for the crime life; Buddy believes he reminds him of his younger self; and Doc treats him like a pawn, while also being a strict paternal figure.
In the end, Baby moves the plot, but also the film’s stylistic choices. He has tinnitus as a result of a car accident that killed his parents when he was a kid, meaning he listens to music at all times to drown out the ringing in his ears; and whatever Baby listens to, we listen to, too.
This means the choreographed stunts tuned to the soundtrack aren’t just there for flavor, Baby is actually trying to make the music match his stunts. He is pulling off that action movie day-dream everyone has. In one scene, Baby stops and rewinds the song he’s listening to just to get it at the right cue for a heist.
This doesn’t mean “Baby Driver” doesn’t opt to slow down at times. It is, after all, a love story too, with Baby and Debora bonding over the same music that he uses to commit crimes. In one scene, the camera pans around them in a Laundromat, every single washing machine filled with red, yellow and blue loads, cycling at the same speed. Elgort and Evans’ chemistry shines here, as Baby opens up to the waitress. “I’ve said more words to you today than to everyone else this year,” he says.
Of course, love life and crime life intertwine, and the explosive second and third acts are a direct result of that. Baby’s quest is to see how much the others were right or wrong about the assumptions made about whom he is and what he can achieve. In a way, “Baby Driver” is a coming-of-age story, as a young man looks to plant his two feet in the ground and discover who he is for himself. Fortunately, he’s taking the audience with him on his quest.