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Kinetic 'Baby Driver' is a fairy tale triumph of style, substance and a killer soundtrack
A scene from Baby Driver. - photo by Josh Terry
"BABY DRIVER" 3 stars Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Elza Gonzalez, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx; R (violence and language throughout); in general release

Baby Driver is a symphony of style, sound and story. Moments after it begins, a red turbocharged Subaru is dancing through downtown Atlanta, leading police cruisers on a manic, destructive chase that feels like the spiritual successor of 1980s The Blues Brothers.

The driver, Baby played by Ansel Elgort, from The Fault in Our Stars and the ill-fated Divergent series is a cherub-faced orphan who constantly plays music to drown out the ringing in his ear left over from the tragic car crash that took his parents. Whether hes driving getaway for bank robbers or picking up their coffee, Baby glides through life to the beat of a constant soundtrack.

But right when you think this might be another cheer for the bad guys movie, we learn the truth: Baby is working under duress. He owes a massive debt to a local underworld kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey), and until that debt is paid, Babys preternatural driving skills are on criminal retainer.

That, among other reasons, is why Baby instantly falls for Debora (Lily James), the pretty waitress at the local diner who just wants to hop in a car, put on some great music and drive west into the sunset. Its love at first sight, a fairy tale of a relationship, and the real world just wont allow it.

So Baby continues to tolerate his miserable existence, surrounded by foul-mouthed, violent criminals like Bats (Jamie Foxx), a self-aware lunatic, and Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzlez, respectively), a 21st-century Bonnie and Clyde with a PDA problem. At one point, Baby pays off his debt, but when Doc makes it clear that he has no intention of letting go of his lucky charm of a driver, Baby realizes hes going to have to force his freedom.

Baby Driver comes from director Edgar Wright, who helped make Simon Pegg a familiar face in sharp, campy action-comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg isnt along for this ride, unfortunately, but Wrights kinetic visual style is on full display. Baby Driver is one of those rare movies that matches its style to its story, rather than let the former overwhelm the latter.

Its soundtrack is staggering, easily doubling the track list of a usual movie, creating a wall-to-wall wave of music that Wright uses to tie together the beats and twists of his effort. Heavy on 60s and 70s soul, Baby Drivers set list also draws from artists as diverse as Beck, Queen and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

For a movie that has such a fairy tale feel, Baby Driver never strays far from its harsh reality, and retains a peculiar moral center. To get out from under Docs thumb, Baby has to take the law into his own hands, and unlike in a lesser film, Wright makes him face the consequences.

There are lots of movies out there with great soundtracks and great car chases, but Baby Driver manages to combine all of its elements of style and substance in a way that is unique, creative and very fun. Its pretty rough around the edges mostly thanks to the constant profanity coming from Babys co-workers but if you have to wait a while for Baby Driver to show up on basic cable, it will be a worthy wait. Just do yourself a favor and pick up the soundtrack right now.

"Baby Driver" is rated R for violence and language throughout; running time: 90 minutes.
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