The writer/director of Baby Driver, Edgar Wright, is best known for the ‘Cornetto trilogy’ of genre spoofs he made with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. At least two of them are absolute classics and the third (World's End) will still keep you up late if it pops up on ITV2 just before bedtime.
Wright spent a lot of time in the long grass working on superhero heist caper Ant-Man for Marvel, but that project foundered and was eventually brought to the screen by Peyton Reed.
Baby Driver isn’t exactly a classic, but you can imagine it keeping you up a bit later than you intended.
The film picks up one or two threads from Ant-Man, in that it’s a heist movie that scoffs at the laws of physics, but it actually shares a lot more DNA with Ant-Man’s stablemate Guardians of the Galaxy.
Baby Driver puts us in a car with an ill-matched crew of ne’er-do-wells while they get up to criminal endeavours and plays us an irresistible mixtape of guilty pleasure retro pop songs while they do.
The trailer might have you thinking of the similarly physics-denying Fast and the Furious franchise: cars and people are impossibly durable, and firearms carry precisely as many bullets as the plot demands, but a closer touchstone might be Quentin Tarantino’s earlier work. Especially True Romance, which carries similar themes of off-centre morality, amour fou, and the romance of the road.
Wright has assembled an exceptional cast for Baby Driver; Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Fox and Jon Bernthal all play standout supporting roles, but at the centre of the film is Ansel Elgort, a callow Bill Paxton lookalike known so far for YA hits such as Divergent and The Fault in our Stars.
Wright makes sure that Elgort gets our attention despite the distracting strength of the scenery-munching ensemble by giving him a hip-as-you-like, vividly choreographed persona where every move is played out to the beat of a classic oldie on one of his selection of vintage iPods, and every one of the few words he utters is a cupid’s arrow aimed at the heart of every 15-year-old girl in the audience.
Elgort’s romantic match is played by Downton Abbey’s Lily James, on luminous form here as a waitress in a diner who catches the hero’s eye and retains admirable sang-froid despite the blood-spattered chaos that trails in his wake.
This is not a film that shies away from cliché – our hero is, after all, the same taciturn wheelman with a distaste for violence we’ve seen in a zillion gangster capers – but it embraces the genre tropes with such untrammelled glee that it makes them feel new again.
Baby Driver will not make you think great thoughts, but if you fancy a couple of hours of thrills, and the occasional laugh, while you eat your popcorn then your ticket money will be well spent here.
Baby Driver is released across the UK on June 28