Baby Driver (2017)

The lights dim; a less-than-witty set of M&Ms remind us to quiet our cell phones; and then something strange happens. Writer/director Edgar Wright thanks us for “getting off the couch” to see Baby Driver as it was intended: in a movie theater.

With the rise of Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, and Amazon Prime Video, being a part-time couch potato is all the rage. From Game of Thrones to Transparent, binge watching long-form media is part of our cultural currency. Not only are these stories marvelously performed, written, and directed, but they’re an easy way for us to quickly relate to one another. Discussing the entertainment we consume is a shorthand approach for creating meaningful connection.

Baby Driver isn’t a franchise, a sequel, or part of an ever-expanding cinematic universe. It’s not connected to a pre-existing intellectual property. It’s not binge worthy. It’s a self-contained movie with a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end with no chance (hopefully) of a sequel.

This is why Edgar Wright’s opening remarks seem so strange. It’s almost like the studio forced him to thank the audience for getting off their butts, journeying to a theater, and taking a chance on a stand-alone movie.

It’s risky. We get it. Yada yada yada. No thanks necessary.

I won’t mince words: Baby Driver is the must-see movie of the summer and it begs to be seen on the big screen.

If you’re familiar with Edgar Wright’s oeuvre, Baby Driver‘s masterful mash-up of cinematic references and techniques will seem like old hat. It’s easy to overlook how groundbreaking his previous efforts (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, et al.) were in terms of storytelling, execution, and craft. Baby Driver is the culmination of those skills. Wright is firing on all cylinders.

In a nutshell, Baby Driver follows a getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort in a star-making role), as he attempts to escape a web of coercion and bank robbery orchestrated by mentor/mobster Doc (a stalwart Kevin Spacey). When Baby’s on the brink of freedom, he falls in with the wrong crew, and risks everything to save his deaf foster father Joseph and future girlfriend Debora (an enchanting Lily James).

Baby Driver wears its impressive array of influences on its sleeve with pride. Through sound design, shot composition, and editing techniques, there are hints of musicals like An American in Paris and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, gangster flicks like Heat and Godfellas, and comedy classics like The Blues Brothers.

Another star of the film is the absolutely wonderfully structured script and playfully written dialogue. With Baby Driver, Wright may outdo Tarantino in terms of repartee, quotability, and charm. You enjoy hearing these characters speak. There’s a musicality to their dialogue that keeps you tuned in for more.

And, of course, the soundtrack is killer. It’s a music nerd’s wet dream and chock-full of songs that make you want to hit the open road. In some of it’s more musical elements, Baby Driver features these songs front and center. Several choreographed long shots use these songs as a guide with lyrics graffitied on walls, characters dancing, and sound effects — like gun shots — in perfect rhythm.

Baby Driver is a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s thrilling, it’s fun, and, most importantly, it’s original.

Do yourself a favor, skip the third reboot of Spiderman and the third installment of Thor, and go see Baby Driver in a theater. It’s not a chip off the old block, Baby Driver is its own damn thing and that’s super cool. I promise, you’ll have plenty to talk about.