Every now and then a movie comes along that defies description by typical genre standards.
“Baby Driver” is one such movie, aggressively racing in its own direction while blasting through any attempt to describe ‘exactly’ what type of film it is.
Ansel Elgort, an up-and-coming actor whose star is on the rise following turns in the “Divergent” series and “The Fault in Our Stars,” both opposite Shailene Woodley.
Taking the lead in “Baby Driver” required Elgort to step up his game, sharing screen time with Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, and Elgort rises to the occasion, playing the role of a young getaway driver in Doc’s (Spacey) crime organization.
Baby — yes, that’s his name, as he keeps having to say — is a reluctant member of Doc’s crew and wants out. But, in criminal organizations, things like getting out don’t come easily.
“One more job and I’m done,” Baby tells Doc early in the film.
“One more job and we’re straight,” Doc replies. “Now I don’t think I need to give you the speech about what would happen if you say no. How I could break your legs and kill everyone you love, because you already know that, don’t you?”
That’s the point where writer/director Edgar Wright — who wrote and directed cult classics like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Shaun of the Dead” — could have taken the easy route. Lots of car chases, a few quips about Baby’s name, and a sentimental ending, and the film would have looked just like a dozen others coming out this year.
But Wright decided to take the film boldly into avant-garde territory, using a rousing soundtrack (which features inventively into the plot) to drive the ahead and then abruptly change gears from action to comedy, and from heavy drama to romance. Featuring a wide variety of music from the Beach Boys to Beck and the Commodores, Wright is able to deftly keep the story moving ahead without being dragged down by some of the script’s darker or more emotionally heavy moments.
Baby’s romantic interest, Debora — one character that could have used a bit more development — is nevertheless played well by actress Lily James (“Downton Abbey”). Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm make the most of their screen time as fellow bad guys Bats and Buddy, with Hamm delivering a particularly impressive performance.
Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”), Eliza Gonzalez (television’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” series), and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers round out the notable cast, though “Lost” actor Lanny Joon has a short but memorable appearance.
In the end, “Baby Driver” is a wonder of modern filmmaking: a film that is at once an action-adventure, romantic comedy, drama, crime story, escapist fantasy that is at the same time really neither of those.
It’s the kind of film one has to experience to truly understand. Since it’s playing in area theaters starting June 27, you can do just that.