Let’s just get one thing out of the way right up front—Baby Driver is a terrible name for a movie. I don’t care if it comes from a Simon & Garfunkel song, every time I mention it to people it’s met with skepticism and sometimes even eye rolling.
Luckily, that’s about the worst thing I’m able to say about Baby Driver.
Our hero is Baby—that’s right, B-A-B-Y, Baby—a getaway driver for crime kingpin Kevin Spacey. Baby’s major quirk is that he never stops listening to music, which he uses to drown out the tinnitus he experiences as the result of a car accident when he was a child.
Of course, Baby’s looking to get out of the driving game, needing just one last score to square him with Spacey and allow him to be free of his obligations to the man. In this sense, and in much of the rest of the movie’s story, there’s not a lot new here. Baby falls in love, that love is used against him, and he must use his driving skills to escape the danger all around him.
So the story’s nothing important, but the style, that’s where the movie shines. Baby Driver has been called a musical where the cars do the dancing, and that’s not far off. Every movement is choreographed to the music Baby listens to as he drives. And even if I do wish some of the car chase scenes weren’t shot quite so closely—I lost track from time to time of where the cars were in a larger geographical sense—if there’s ever a reason to use the cliché “balletic,” this is it.
Baby is played by Ansel Elgort, and, to be honest, he didn’t do a lot for me. He’s surrounded by far more interesting characters—a loose cannon played by Jamie Foxx, a Wall Street trader-turned-bank robber played fantastically by Jon Hamm—and these characters seemed to have layers upon layers. Baby, on the other hand, just doesn’t seem to have a lot going on, and I’m afraid part of that is due to Elgort’s performance. He’s just lacking the panache he displays in his driving.
Still, there’s some chance this is intentional, as the movie revels in Baby’s innocence. It’s not so much naivete as it is a kind heart, and in a movie like this, the villains are often just more fun to pay attention to. But whatever Baby lack in magnetism, he more than makes up for with his driving, and after all, that’s why we’re there, isn’t it?