By Jay Hunter – Part nostalgic-heist film, part operatic rock-musical, Baby Driver is writer/director Edgar Wright’s fifth outing on the big screen. Telling the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort) – who has become a lucky charm getaway driver for kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) – he must repay debt to the Atlanta crime lord in a series of bank heists to the tune of his iPod playlists as they drown out his tinnitus from a childhood accident.
Opening with a pedal to the metal car-chase sequence, soundtracked to Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion, it becomes clear that the meticulously chosen soundtrack is not just central to the film, but also the engine that drives it’s entire narrative. Throughout the film there are scenes that harken back not just to classic heist films, but musicals as well, with well thought out choreography, lip-syncing and colours.
As Doc fills his heist teams (never exactly the same) with psychotic star power, including Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm & Jamie Foxx, it becomes evident that Baby doesn’t belong in this world. Tender scenes in which we learn of Baby’s mother and his touching relationship with his adoptive father add depth – albeit generic – to his character. Problems arrive however when we are introduced to Deborah, a waitress who walks into Baby’s life singing B-A-B-Y by Carla Thomas. A deliberate blank slate in which our main character projects his dreams and memories of his mother, whether or not this is a deliberate paper thin caricature from Wright is unclear, however when love interests start spouting lines like “It’s not really about me”, it’s hard not to feel aggrieved with female portrayal in this world.
Thankfully bland characters and script choices are counterbalanced with the ever brilliant Spacey, who’s one liners “He put’s the Asian in home invasion” inject much needed comedy in the largely straight Baby Driver. As ever, Wright includes smart editing choices that carry the story along in a cool slick manner, helped by what will no doubt be the soundtrack of the summer.