By now maybe you’ve seen Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver.” If not, today is the day. It’s the best movie so far of 2017, a real light touch tour de force that will leave you breathless and applauding at the end.
“Baby Driver” is powered by exceptional performances by everyone– Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey (worst toupee ever), plus Lily James from “Downton Abbey” (that’s right, Cousin Rose), and Eiza Gonzalez. CJ Jones is kind of a revelation, and there’s a small but memorable turn by Paul Williams (what a great idea).
Then there’s a soundtrack, the likes of which must have taken forever to clear the rights. The Simon & Garfunkel title track is the point of the whole film but you’ve got to work for it– you won’t hear it til the end. First we’re going to hear a lot of songs with the word “baby” most especially the amazing Carla Thomas singing “BABY (Baby)” plus a few versions of “The Harlem Shuffle” and Barry White writ large and placed perfectly. I want that CD! (There’s also Sam & Dave’s “When Something is Wrong with My Baby”– but not enough!)
Elgort plays Baby, an ace getaway driver who’s been blackmailed into work by Spacey (looking puffy). The rest of the aforementioned names work for Spacey as armed bankrobbers, and they mean business. They’re shot like villains from the Batman TV show, but Wright resists camp– well almost resists it because Baby’s flirtation with Debora, waitress in the diner where everyone comes and goes, is his nod to nostalgia. (I did love when Baby thought the song “Debora” by T. Rex was by something called Trex.)
Like Bruce Wayne, Baby has lost his parents in a terrible accident. But instead of becoming Batman, he’s just trouble. He lives with his foster father, implausibly by fabulously embodied by CJ Jones as a deaf mute.
All the actions and emotions are heightened, there’s lots of adrenaline, and more than enough character development– for so many characters, they are well delineated. We get a little of everyone’s history. Hamm and Foxx are really outstanding. Hamm is like Don Draper on meth. Foxx just grabs his closeups. And Wright gives everyone their moment, even newish Gonzalez.
All the below the line stuff crackles– crisp cinematography, and mind blowing editing. I sure “Baby Driver” makes it to the Oscars because it’s full of life and originality. It’s what movies can be when no one is interfering. Bravo Edgar Wright.