SXSW Review: Baby Driver

Score: A-

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rated: R

It's still very early in 2017, but I have a hard time believing I'll see another movie this year as consistently entertaining and jaw-dropping as Baby Driver. Edgar Wright's latest is an exhilarating ride from start to finish, even as it runs on fumes in the final 20 minutes.

Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a talented getaway driver who always soundtracks his escapes on an iPod (how retro). The tunes drown out his tinnitus and his ugly childhood memories. Much like the driver in Drive – which this movie most closely resembles, he doesn't say much, but he's captivating all the same. And like Drive, he gets in over his head when a heist goes bad and he and his crew are even more wanted by the cops.

But enough about the plot. The sheer joy I got from this movie had nothing to do with that. It's all in the performances – each one outstanding – and the brilliant, frequently awe-inspiring symphony of cinematography, film and sound editing, all cued up to one of the most incredible soundtracks ever assembled.

In many respects, Baby Driver is a musical, so choreographed is each step of the gas pedal, slam of the car door and shot of a gun. I can't even imagine the number of takes they had to pull off to get each action to sync up perfectly with the songs Wright chose and the vision he had in his head.

But it's not merely showing off. This movie is just so much fun. Even when things get a bit grim, there's time to enjoy it all. Even a crazed killer stops for a moment to enjoy an obscure Queen song. And it doesn't just feel like a tic either. Each character gets just enough development to feel like a person, but not so much that it slows down any of the film's forward momentum.

The movie only gets lost toward the end, when the finale strains the limits of its premise to where it's not believable anymore. The film also adds a rushed and unnecessary epilogue. This is the same problem I had with The World's End, and also why neither film quite hit the next-level highs of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Hot Fuzz.

But these are minor quibbles. For much of the cast, this is the best film performance they've ever given. And for Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (as the wild card in the heist crew) and Kevin Spacey (as the brains and money behind the rip-offs), this is the best film they've done in years.

If you're a fan of any of Edgar Wright's work, this will absolutely be up your alley. When it finally comes out this August, race to your local theater and see it right away. You may think everything that can be done with car chases can and has been done. Luckily, Wright is here to prove you wrong.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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