Baby Driver opens on a bank robbery set to the song Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It is important to note the song, because the movie is built on songs. The main character, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is always listening to music on an iPod, and the rhythm of the scenes are determined entirely by whatever it is that he’s listening to. Baby is a wheelman working off a debt to criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey). He always drives the getaway car for the various crews of unstable personalities that Doc assembles. Baby is so good at his job that he actually manages to pay off his debt, but Doc isn’t quite done with him.Early in the film, Baby meets and falls in love with Debora (Lily James), a waitress at a diner he frequents. This small bit of classic movie romance provides the motivation for the character to want to get out of his life of crime, but it isn’t the driving force of this film. It really is all about the music, and the ways writer/director Edgar Wright can flex his technical prowess in creating scenes that sync up with said music. This is a stylish, funny film that is dazzling from every conceivable angle, its sequences far exceeding the wow factor of even the most bombastic of blockbusters.This movie is a technical marvel from start to finish. One could easily point to the car chases, which play out like beautiful dances on the roads of Atlanta. Or a terrific early sequence that has Baby dancing on the streets to Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle in one fluid take. But what’s truly astounding about this picture is it keeps up that effort throughout its entire runtime. It offers the same kind of visual and rhythmic thoughtfulness to a shot of coffee being served as it does to its most elaborate sequences. Every shot counts in this film, every frame evidence of a filmmaker working at the height of his powers.In all this, however, the characters are serviceable, but hardly essential. Baby is mostly a cipher, projecting trauma and regret mainly through the performance rather than the writing. Debora doesn’t have a whole lot to her outside her attraction to Baby. The criminals are broadly drawn, their various levels of instability passing as personality. There just isn’t a whole lot of depth to the writing of these characters, though there is plenty of style. In sections, the dialogue is reminiscent of Tarantino, the lines dripping with flavor to make up for a deficit in substance.But to be honest: the style is so powerful and infectious that those weaknesses hardly matter. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that this is one of the best car chase movies of all time. Neither would it be hyperbole to say that the choreography of this picture rivals even the best musicals. And though the characters are thinly written, the acting is strong enough to make it all work. Ansel Elgort has an easygoing charm that is only amplified when called on to dance. His chemistry with Lily James is palpable, and gives the romance just a dash of heft. Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx bring different kinds of menace to their characters, all of them restrained and compelling in surprising ways.There’s an exuberant joy present in many moments of Baby Driver. One just gets the sense that everybody involved just believes in the project, and they’re all putting in their best effort to make every section be as good as possible. Edgar Wright, whose comedies had already proven his mettle as a filmmaker, extends his talents to other genres of cinema and just works a little harder to make every sequence work just a little bit better. And that’s what makes this movie so much fun to watch. It tries just a little harder to make a scene a little more entertaining. That’s worth valuing.
BABY DRIVER IS SHOWING ON AUGUST 2 CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.