It takes a scant five minutes for Baby Driver to feel like one of the best car-chase films of all time. Director Edgar Wright’s first film since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World kicks off with a stellar getaway through the streets of Atlanta set to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms.” Somehow, though, Wright manages to top that scene throughout, culminating in a frantic, mesmerizing and utterly joyful 45-minute finale.
Wright has always taken cues from the genres he loves—zombie movies in Shaun of the Dead, buddy-cop flicks in Hot Fuzz—and twisted them at will. With Baby Driver, it's heist films. At the wheel is Baby (Ansel Elgort, whose face really sells the "Baby" business), who combats his tinnitus by constantly pumping tunes through his earbuds. Every sequence plays out perfectly to the music in Baby's ears, whether it's the rat-a-tat of gunfire punctuating the snare on an old funk track or clashing metal with the cymbal smashes on classic-rock oddities.
Words don't do it justice—it sounds cute. But it turns out the world really, really needed a movie that asked "What would happen if you meshed Drive, Vanishing Point and the robbery scene from Heat and made it a funk-scored opera?" It's absolutely astounding.
The plot is pretty boilerplate. Baby’s working off a debt to crime boss Doc (a seethingly paternal Kevin Spacey). Pulled back for one more job—that always works out so well–he’s teamed up with shit-talking Bats (Jamie Foxx), tatted-up former Wall Street trader Buddy (Jon Hamm) and calculating Darling (Eiza González) to rob a post office. Under pressure and desiring to leave town with his waitress girlfriend (Lily James, evoking young Twin Peaks waitress Mädchen Amick). Baby takes the gig. It immediately goes off the rails, resulting in an adrenaline-fueled back half.
Wright isn't really interested in narrative nuances. This is a movie where violence and velocity are played up to surrealist levels while remaining relatively grounded in reality. It's hysterically funny, but not a straight comedy. It's often touching, but seldom cloying. It's the hyper-stylish car chase opera the world deserves.
CRITIC'S RATING: 4/4 stars.
SEE IT. Baby Driver is rated R. It plays at Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, CineMagic Theatre, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Tigard and Vancouver.