This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Andrew Buckley’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
While Edgar Wright is one of the most stylistically distinctive directors working today, as of late, it feels like he's been stuck in a bit of a creative rut. Yes, I enjoyed every entry in the so-called "Cornetto Trilogy", but by the time 2013's The World's End rolled around, and we got yet another quirky relationship comedy wrapped inside of a loving genre parody, I was starting to get a bit fatigued with the whole deal. Fortunately, while I'm still disappointed that the suits at Marvel refused to let Wright inject his undeniable personality into the rather homogenous "MCU" with Ant Man, Baby Driver is still a strong consolation for that cinematic loss, and a welcome shake-up to Wright's still-young career.
The basic plot of Baby Driver should be familiar to anyone who's ever seen any "One Last Job" films; a criminal who's The Best At What He Does (the titular "Baby Driver") plans to ride into the sunset with his Designated Love Interest (Lily James's innocent, naive Girl Next Door Deborah) after he pulls off his OLJ (the robbery of an armored truck) for his local criminal boss (Kevin Spacey's superior, perpetually in control Doc), a boss who's in the habit of making people Offers They Can't Refuse. Of course, just when Baby Thought He Was Out, They Pull Him Back In, he quickly gets In Over His Head and absolutely Nothing Goes According To Plan, and he has to go on the run from both the fuzz and his fellow thieves as he discovers that Getting In's A Lot Harder Than Getting In, and blahblahblah yaddayaddayadda seen it all before.
But Wright obviously knows we've seen all this before, and doesn't try to pretend otherwise (at one point, Baby literally even says his next heist will be his "one last job"). Instead, Baby Driver displays a refreshing sense of self-awareness about the familiarity of its cliches, while also refusing to coast on them, injecting some new life into the ever reliable Crime Thriller both through its unique, unusual protagonist, as well as through applying Edgar Wright's hyperactive, idiosyncratically one-of-a-kind style to the genre, all while Wright takes steps to avoid simply repeating what's worked for him before.
Ansel Elgort of The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series takes a much-needed break from the Young Adult adaptations to portray Baby, the painfully young but supernaturally-gifted driver, who uses his various IPod mixes as both the soundtrack to the heists he facilitates, as well as an escape from them, attempting to avoid seeing or hearing any innocents being harmed by his "coworkers" by just dancing in his seat to the beats in the hopes of keeping his hands clean (a hope we all very well know will be dashed by the end of the film).
Baby's relationships with the other characters form the heart of the film, whether it be the way he takes care of his deaf foster father who is far too old to look after him anymore, his uneasy, Stockholm Syndrome dynamic with Doc, or his love story with Deborah, the waitress at a local diner. Rather than just being the obligatory Girl Of The Film, Wright takes the time to properly, genuinely develop their relationship, whether it be showing the two of them bonding over their mutual love of music and a desire to just hit the road and leave it all behind, or the true sympathy she shows when she learns that his mother died in a car crash when he was a child (while he was in the car, with a 1st-generation IPod that he now carries with him as a memento), or the way she loyally waits for him at the diner all night, after he promises (futilely) to make one final getaway with her.
All these small (but essential) details results in BD easily having the best character development a Wright film has had since Shaun Of The Dead, which, along with the surprisingly complex, detailed plot, and unexpectedly serious tone here, helps to create the freshest work from this director since, well, that acclaimed debut. Don't get me wrong, there are still some moments of levity and comic relief here, but for the most part, Baby Driver can hardly be called a parody of anything, as it plays its Crime Thriller tropes rather straight, and, unlike most of Wright's previous material, when the characters are supposedly in life-or-death situations here, they actually act as if they are, resulting in a Crime film as legitimately thrilling as anything Michael Mann ever put his name on.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't praise Wright for retaining his signature directorial style and taking it in a different, more action-oriented direction here. Of course, his in-your-face, hyperactive-but-focused style, with its energetic, constantly active editing, cinematography, and neat little visual gimmicks, and his always perfect, mood-setting song choices do a lot to spice up the calmer scenes, but it really shines during the action, as the dusty story beats are brushed off by the musical ones, and it becomes harder & harder to tell if the last beat came out of Baby's ever-present IPod, or from a nearby gunshot. This movie really does have some of the finest action scenes (with all-practical stunts!) since Fury Road, and with them, Wright helps to simultaneously liven up both this tired old genre, and his own personal style, with what is one of the best movies of the year so far. Whatever you do, don't let this Baby drive away from you.
Final Score: 8.25