The first chords of the alt rock number “Bellbottoms” by The John Spencer Blues Explosion kick in and we see four people donning sunglasses in a parked car. Three of the people get out to rob the bank across the street. The driver known as Baby stays behind to rock on to the beats playing on his iPod. When the other 3 return, the car chase through the streets of urban Atlanta is on.
Edgar Wright’s quirky imagination delivers a balletic symphony of action, cars, guns, romance and music. His title character played with cool swagger by Ansel Elgort suffers from tinnitus and can only operate with a select tune that maintains the best his character needs to function.
With Lily Collins playing Elgort’s love interest you get moments as sweet as strawberry ice cream as they envision a life together driving down I-85 with music as their companion. But Baby is committed to underboss Doc played by Kevin Spacey and is forced to chauffeur ruthless criminals played by Jon Hamm, Jaime Foxx and Jon Bernthal. They are great in their respective parts by the way.
Music is Wright’s main device here. The dialogue, the gunshots, the screech of tires and the close ups for romance all travel to the beat of the film’s lengthy soundtrack including renditions of “Harlem Shuffle” and “Easy” by The Commodores, which I’ve developed a new fresh affection for.
The editing is quick, never relying on CGI. Car chases are actual car chases here. The cameras are held steady and close ups of Baby and other drivers blend perfectly with the action scenes.
“Baby Driver” is one the best films of 2017. It presents what it promises by introducing a new way for action delivery. Elgort makes a great character who provides casual dance both behind the wheel and outside of the car. I always like to see a character dance or lip sync. It reminds me of what any of us are capable of without any special effect to enhance the moment. Dancing can be as natural for any of us, much like it is for Baby.