Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver Is This Summer’s Hottest Movie

As countless summer blockbusters have demonstrated in recent years, Hollywood has no trouble making a splash with spectacle. What the studios have more trouble with is originality and imagination, traits that would seem to go hand-in-hand with good filmmaking. Unfortunately, these virtues can’t be bought, and thinking outside the box presents an enormous challenge for cautious studio executives all too aware of the countless ways an original movie can—and usually does—go terribly wrong.

But every now and then, a movie coursing with creativity and vitality manages to sneak through the studio system unscathed—with near perfect results. As you’ve probably heard by now, Baby Driver is one such movie.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a grown orphan with a musical obsession that plays a role in nearly every minute of his life—he’s usually wired-in to one of his many iPods—who works as an escape driver for criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey). Increasingly uneasy about his violently dysfunctional collaborators (including Jon Hamm’s Buddy and Jamie Foxx’s Bats), Baby hopes to free himself from this life of crime, but he owes Doc one more heist.

As he waits for his final assignment, Baby hits it off Debora (Lily James), a charming waitress who gives him yet another reason to retire from getaway driving. But there’s one problem: Baby is so good at his job that Doc won’t accept his resignation. With violent threats hanging over him, Baby is forced to continue working with this crew against his will, going to unusual lengths to break free—and keep Debora out of harm’s way.

While it’s tempting to reduce the triumphs of Baby Driver to its two core preoccupations—dazzling car chases and intricately choreographed musical set pieces—this film shows writer-director Edgar Wright firing on all cylinders throughout.

Already a celebrated cult auteur for the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright has little to prove to his core fanbase, but Baby Driver is a significant leap forward for the director, a pop crime movie that strikes a perfect balance of narrative urgency and playful digression. Even when one of Wright’s ideas falls flat (a rare occurrence this time around), you sense that there are 10 great ideas just around the corner—and you’re usually right.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (a film with an unmistakably similar opening), Baby Driver owes a significant debt to the films of Quentin Tarantino. Although Wright sets his film in something approximating the real world, his stylized, playful, music-fuelled approach doesn’t just make the absurdist criminality palatable—though it definitely does that—it also keeps us inside his protagonist’s dreamy, occasionally surreal headspace. (Comparisons to Drive are even more apt, though Wright largely steers clear of that film’s bleaker tendencies.)

Simultaneously in crisis and under the spell of a new romance, Baby embodies the tension at the heart of the film’s narrative and Wright’s inspired aesthetic. That movies can simultaneously offer engaging drama and euphoric pop pleasure shouldn’t feel like a revelation, but modern Hollywood rarely rises to the challenge. Baby Driver is a rare exception, one that offers a refreshing reminder of cinema’s unlimited potential.

Baby Driver arrives in theatres today. Check out the trailer below, or just go see it right now: