THE getaway driver is a great movie archetype, the taciturn professional with an inclination towards the existential. The Driver offered one of the best roles for one-time Hollywood icon Ryan O’Neal, and it was as a getaway driver in Drive that another Ryan, Gosling, became one of today’s most popular stars.

Such films tend to lean towards the gloomy. Until now. In the hands of the effervescently imaginative writer/director Edgar Wright, a very different getaway driver is at the heart of a stylish, fantastically exciting and oddly endearing action romance. Baby Driver feels at once familiar and new, a well-worn template that has been reconstituted with the foot down and the volume turned up.

“Baby” (relative unknown Ansel Elgort) is a sweet-faced and good-natured young man who just happens to be a phenomenally good driver. He’s also under the thumb of Doc (Kevin Spacey), a crime kingpin who looks like a bank manager but hires scary guys to do his bidding. Doc devises the plans for numerous robberies, for a changeable crew but always his trusted Baby behind the wheel.

On the surface, the lad meets many of the stock characteristics: he’s a silent loner, aloof from the rest of the gang. But he’s also barely out of short trousers. And, his signature trait, he is never, ever without his iPod and earbuds. Baby not only drives to carefully selected tracks for each job – The Damned for this bank, Queen for that – but he walks and even talks along to a personal mix.

This is Wright’s central conceit – music is both integral to his character’s life and the film’s motor. And while it would be easy to expect the result to be superficial, the sheer ingenuity on display in the script, characters and filming style saves Baby Driver from the potential pitfalls.

Though seemingly lost in his own world, Baby is an intriguing young man, sharp as a tack. An orphan, he actually looks after his guardian, an elderly, deaf gent with whom he communicates using sign language (another neat riff on the aural theme). There is a poignant connection between the death of his parents, his dependency on music and his perfectionist driving. Baby’s desire for the next job to be his last is heightened when he falls in love with diner waitress Debora (Lily James). But it doesn’t seem as though Doc will ever let him go. And everyone’s future becomes far less assured with the introduction of new gang member Bats (Jamie Foxx), a psychotic who will almost certainly put a spanner in the works of that next job.

Wright has made a career from taking different genres and breathing fresh, usually comic life into them: the zombie movie (Shawn Of The Dead), the corrupt cop movie (Hot Fuzz), the midlife crisis movie (The World’s End). Here, the combination of Baby’s constantly choreographed life and the muscular crime action makes Baby Driver feel like a dazzling mash-up of Heat and La La Land.

The performers play along with the heightened genre surfing, with James pushing her character’s wide-eyed innocence over the top, Foxx his character’s psychotic posturing, even Hamm – best-known as the restrained Don Draper of Mad Men – letting his hair down alongside Eiza González as a Bonnie and Clyde couple. In contrast, Spacey and star-in-the-making Elgort’s deliberate underplaying keep the film anchored.

Cinematographer Bill Pope famously helmed The Matrix films. His work here, particularly on the driving sequences, feels just as kinetically cutting edge and thrilling. Despite a slightly saggy middle section, the only time when the film feels clichéd, Baby Driver is top gear entertainment.

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