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Edgar Wright Kicks ‘Baby Driver’ Into High Gear

British director makes his own kind of action heist film

Photo caption: Baby (Ansel Elgort) has a debt to pay off with Doc (Kevin Spacey) in Edgar Wr...

Photo credit: TriStar Pictures

Baby (Ansel Elgort) has a debt to pay off with Doc (Kevin Spacey) in Edgar Wright's heist film "Baby Driver."

Companion viewing

"The Getaway" (1972)

"Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" (1974)

"True Romance" (1993)

"Shaun of the Dead" (2004)

Special Feature Cinema Junkie Podcast

Subscribe now to listen to extended reviews and interviews here.

British filmmaker Edgar Wright is probably best known for his comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” But his latest outing is an action packed heist film called “Baby Driver.”

British filmmaker Edgar Wright is probably best known for his comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” But his latest outing is an action packed heist film called “Baby Driver.

Baby Driver is not so much a film as it is a playlist with moving images.

“When I was 21, I was listening a lot to the song that opens the movie by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,” Wright explained in a phone interview. “I would just imagine this car chase. So I would like literally dream the sequence based on the music, and then that became the idea of doing a film about somebody who is motivated by music and the idea of it being a getaway driver who needs the right music to kind of like excel.”

Music drives the film and defines the character of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver who, we are told, was in “an accident as a kid and still has a hum in the drum and plays music to drown it out.”

The film opens with action as we find Baby behind the wheel of a getaway car just as a heist is about to go down. He’s plugged into his music and watches from the car as three armed robbers enter the bank. From that distance he can let himself believe that no one in the bank is getting hurt.

Baby, we discover, is driving for Doc (Kevin Spacey) because of a debt he has to pay off. That explains why he seems so out of place in this world of thugs and why he tries to keep his distance — in a very physical sense — from them as well.

Wright grew up watching car movies like “The Getaway,” “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry,” and “The Italian Job.”

These were films where the criminals were made attractive, and you wanted them to succeed in their illicit endeavors. The film generally ended in one of two ways, the outlaws paid with their lives or they got away. Wright wanted to see if there was another way to resolve these kinds of stories.

Photo caption: Edgar Wright directs Jon Hamm on the set of "Baby Driver."

Photo credit: TriStar Pictures

Edgar Wright directs Jon Hamm on the set of "Baby Driver."

Wright wanted to try his hand at an action-packed heist film like those he loved and “Baby Driver” evolved after years of toying with the idea.

Wright has a gift for paying homage to other movies while creating films that are still uniquely his own. In this case, the unique aspect comes from the perspective a director who wanted to find a way to reconcile his love for the outlaws and the open road with a sense of personal responsibility. So “Baby Driver” spends a lot of time pumping up the adrenaline with jaw-dropping car chases and violent action but when a heist goes wrong, it’s also about the consequences of that violence and about Baby having to eventually face the music.

Cinema Junkie Reviews 'Baby Driver'

Wright makes such breezy and entertaining films that I sometimes think he doesn’t get taken seriously as a director. He makes it all look so easy that you might miss all the craft that’s going on, the care he takes with sound, his precise editing, his careful composition of images, and just his overall meticulous sense of detail. I have only been disappointed in his work once with “The World’s End” but even that film had moments of brilliance.

But with work such as his TV series “Spaced” and “Shaun of the Dead,” he reveals a gift for writing and directing. What I love about his work is that he rarely wastes time. If something is mentioned or shown in the beginning, it usually pays off in some way at the end. And if you watch his films repeatedly, you always find something new to appreciate.

“Baby Driver” (rated R for violence and language throughout) delivers the goods on an action packed heist film but also manages to engage us with a sweet love story at its core.

I speak with Edgar Wright on the next Cinema Junkie Podcast, look for it this weekend.

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