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Baby Driver is a terrific little crime thriller ...which doesn't mean it is a great movie, which it isn't, but it is an awful lot of fun, filled with strong performances, and offering car chase sequences that - be still my heart! - are staged on real roads with real cars rather than simulated via special effects and green screens.

Ansel Elgort plays Baby, an extraordinarily talented getaway driver who is working off a debt to a crime boss played to sleazy perfection by Kevin Spacey. Baby lives in his own world - he suffers from severe tinnitus, and he uses a series of iPods to play music to drown it out, which also has the effect of cutting him off from the world emotionally. His only real connection seems to be to his foster father, and aging and deaf African-American man whom he is supporting with his ill-gotten gains.

Baby tries to remain his detachment from his crimes by only driving - the bank robberies and violent crimes are committed by various gangs (played with verve by actors that include Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm), and he tries to deny his own culpability. That changes as events threaten his well-being, and as he becomes involved - to his own surprise - with a waitress played by Lily James; with emotional connection comes vulnerability, and like Al Pacino in Godfather III, every time he thinks he is close to getting out, they drag him back in.

Elgort is a revelation in the title role - it is like watching some magical combination of Gene Kelly and Paul Newman. He is well served by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), who wrote and directed Baby Driver and who seems utterly committed to keeping the film grounded even as Elgort and his cars take flight. (The movie reminds me of the films of Walter Hill, who made 48 Hours and a little movie called The Driver that seems to be a touchstone for this one.)

And, let's give credit to the imaginative and energetic soundtrack, which keeps the film moving forward relentlessly.

Go see Baby Driver. It is a wonderful example of what a summer movie can be when it doesn't feature superheroes and depend on special effects.



I have a lovely wine to recommend to you this week - the 2015 Envidia Cochina Albarino from Spain, which manages to be bright and intense and have lots of body while being a perfect summer wine. (I got it from Zupan's in Portland, which is always a great place to find interesting wines that I've never heard of before. This one is a real winner.)
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