Heaven on wheels…

Total Film - - Contents -

Our re­viewer took a full MOT be­fore writ­ing this.

Alove let­ter from Edgar Wright to crime capers, diner ro­mances and, above all, mu­sic, Baby Driver is a heist movie that nabs your heart. Wright’s first solo-scripted out­ing, it’s a more rounded work than his last ven­ture across the pond, 2010’s en­joy­able but scat­ter­shot Scott Pil­grim Vs. The World. A get­away saga that’s per­fectly in sync with its sound­track, it’s a hugely en­joy­able ride from the mo­ment Wright puts pedal to metal.

Set in At­lanta, al­beit with the city look­ing (slightly) nicer than it did in last year’s Triple 9, it cen­tres on ‘Baby’, a near-mute wheel­man played by Ansel El­gort at his most, well, baby-faced. He works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a hard­ened crim­i­nal mas­ter­mind who never uses ex­actly the same crew twice. But thanks to Baby’s prodi­gious driv­ing skills, and the fact that he owes Doc an un­spec­i­fied debt, this young gun is con­stantly on-call.

Baby’s USP is that he spends his days with his ear­buds in lis­ten­ing to one of sev­eral iPods he car­ries with him ev­ery­where. Turns out he has tin­ni­tus from a child­hood ac­ci­dent, and the mu­sic helps drown out the con­stant ring­ing in his ears.

But there’s an­other rea­son: the tunes act like fuel as he waits with the en­gine run­ning (an idea Wright al­ready road-tested in his 2003 video for Mint Royale’s ‘Blue Song’, al­beit with Noel Field­ing play­ing the get­away driver role for laughs).

The first time we see Baby in ac­tion, he’s sit­ting in his red Subaru, lip-sync­ing to Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion’s ‘Bell­bot­toms’. As his fel­low gang mem­bers – Jon Bern­thal, Jon Hamm and Eiza González

– re­turn with the swag, Baby ca­reers away seem­ingly in time to the mu­sic. With Baby out­wit­ting po­lice cars at ev­ery turn, the stunt driv­ing is fan­tas­tic, the edit­ing by Jonathan Amos and Paul Mach­liss peer­less. It leaves you breath­less.

Wright’s sound­track choices don’t start and end with the driv­ing scenes, though. With 35 songs on the playlist, the film is wall-to-wall mu­sic

– Baby’s al­ways lis­ten­ing to some­thing. Even a trip to the lo­cal cof­fee shop to pick up lat­tes for the gang feels more like a waltz, beau­ti­fully chore­ographed in long takes as Baby weaves in and around pedes­tri­ans. Some may find this an­noy­ing, but Wright di­rects with such en­thu­si­asm, it’s hard not to feel swept up.

signing off

Grad­u­ally, Baby’s back­story is re­vealed. His late mother was a singer; he now lives with his wheelchair­bound fos­ter fa­ther (CJ Jones), who is deaf and speaks to Baby in sign lan­guage. There has to be a girl, of course – and when he meets diner wait­ress Deb­o­rah (Lily James), he’s smit­ten. What’s more, af­ter the next

‘wright plays with the crime genre, rein­vig­o­rat­ing clichÉS’

job – this time fea­tur­ing Jamie Foxx’s un­hinged Bats – Baby is fi­nally paid-up with Doc. But, this be­ing the movies, there’s al­ways one last job...

True, Wright isn’t go­ing to win any awards for orig­i­nal plot­ting here but, in some ways, he’s not try­ing to. This is about play­ing with the crime genre and rein­vig­o­rat­ing the clichés, which he man­ages to do with real vigour. Wright gifts his ac­tors with a smart script and they all – with­out ex­cep­tion – ab­so­lutely lap it up. Spacey may re­serve most of his vil­lainy for House Of Cards th­ese days, but it’s great to see him on form as a big-screen men­ace again.


Like­wise, Hamm and Foxx rel­ish their bad-boy roles and James shines as the girl who turns our hero’s head. (She’s very much Alabama to El­gort’s Clarence, to use a True Ro­mance anal­ogy.) But the real plau­dits be­long to El­gort. The Fault In Our Stars ac­tor comes of age here; it may not prove to be quite as ca­reer-mak­ing a turn as Ryan Gosling in Drive, but he sells the char­ac­ter per­fectly: a good guy caught in a bad sit­u­a­tion.

True, you do miss the killer laughs of Wright’s work with Simon Pegg. But there’s much to com­pen­sate; the su­perbly cu­rated sound­track – Queen, Simon & Gar­funkel, Martha And The Van­del­las, The Damned – is worth your ticket price, na­chos and bucket of soda alone. It will be the Spo­tify playlist of the sum­mer, guar­an­teed.

By the time the film screams into its fi­nal act, Wright ramps up the ac­tion, throws in the odd curve­ball and lets the bul­lets fly. Again, the out­come is all very fa­mil­iar – and Baby Driver’s tank does start to run dry as the fin­ish line ap­proaches. But mostly it goes like the clap­pers. Buckle up. James Mot­tram


Crime, ro­mance, fast cars, hot tunes... slicker than your chrome hub­caps, Baby Driver is the sum­mer’s coolest movie.

Cer­tifi­cate 15 Di­rec­tor Edgar Wright STARI NG Ansel El­gort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx Screen­play Edgar Wright Dis­trib­u­tor Sony Run­ning time 112 min­utes Like Zoolan­der, he was frus­trated with his in­abil­ity to turn left.

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