With the big summer films sporting all kinds of special effects and top of the line CGI, it’s refreshing to see a new release that’s gone back to basics. Taking note from George Miller’s cue, who scored big with 2015’s sprawling and unforgettable Mad Max: Fury Road, writer-director Edgar Wright has clearly put his Ant-Man missteps behind him by regaling us with his ode to all that is good about cinema. Baby Driver, which stars budding star Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Bernthal, is the perfect summer film that’s breathtaking in the seemingly effortless way Wright blends sight and sound. Taking cues from Quentin Tarantino, Baby Driver is that unique pulp film which has the look of a fun, well-paced crime thriller, all while embracing the beats and ideals of a musical. It sounds crazy – that’s because it is. And it shouldn’t work - in the hands of a lesser director it would fail miserably. But with Wright in charge he’s proven he’s the only one who can pull all of it off.

The film’s plot is standard – Baby (Elgort, in a star-making turn) is a wheelman who suffers from chronic tinnitus. He owes a considerable debt to Doc (Spacey), a criminal who plans dangerous heists and enlists psychotic criminals to pull them off. Baby is nearly done paying off his debt when he meets and falls for Debora (a beaming James), and it doesn’t take long for Baby to include Debora in his plans to leave his criminal life behind. But there’s a catch (there’s always a catch) and Baby is forced to into another heist, this time driving three criminals who don’t trust Baby. Baby is in over his head, but because he’s of good heart and mind we’re along for the ride. And, boy, it is a thrilling and entertaining one.

From the get-go audiences know what they’re in for because Wright has us panting early with an incredible action set piece that showcases the recognizable streets of Atlanta. Driving a beautiful 2007 Subaru WRX, Wright quickly establishes Baby’s skills, and also shows us the symphonic simpatico that his carefully selected music (for the prologue, it’s “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) shares with his perfectly choreographed stunts. If you’re thinking Fast & Furious you’re way off – that film series is too much of a cartoon to make the grade. If Drive comes to mind, that’s also a negative - Nicolas Winding Refn’s art film is too brooding and serious for Baby Driver’s tone. This near-perfect summer tale is more comparable to La La Land – yes, La La Land. The seeds are there, especially since Baby wears headphones, constantly playing music from the myriad of iPods he has. His driving cues up with whatever he chooses to play as beats and rhythms chime in unison with the action. Typically, music is merely supposed to support scenes, but in this case music is a vital character nearly as tangible as the sunglasses Baby’s always sporting. To sum it up in one word - beautiful.

Wright, though, still finds time for a little humor, a trademark which has made his previous efforts (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) so popular. But it’s not all jokes and giggles – Baby Driver gets serious since the lives of Deborah, Baby, and Baby’s foster father (played by CJ Jones) are at stake. Despite that, there’s still more humor than majority of the straight comedies which have been released this year. This balance of action, tension and humor is why Edgar Wright is one of the best directors working today.

In all, Baby Driver is exactly what the summer movie season needs. It’s fun, intense, funny, fresh and revelatory, not to mention it exposes audiences to fantastic performances from Elgort, James, Hamm and Foxx. There are some slow points, but Wright wisely uses those times to establish Baby and Deborah’s budding romance (besides, audience have to catch their breath from the wild actions scenes). This is the summer’s best feature thus far, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

4.5 stars out of 5


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