Monday, February 2, 2015

Whiplash


IMDB: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%(Critics), 96%(Audience) 

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Riesner 

Release Date: 15 October 2014


Whiplash is a film, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, which follows a young drummer who is aspiring to be the next great jazz drummer. The film stars Miles Teller as the young drummer, and J.K. Simmons as his instructor. The rest of the cast, although I did recognize a couple of the faces, seems to be mostly unknown actors. Prior to the 2014 feature-length film being released, Chazelle wrote and directed a short film by the same name in 2013, which also featured J.K. Simmons in the same role.  I really enjoyed this film, and I can definitely see why it is nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. It really makes you question what ambition to be the best is worth.

The story follows Andrew, a young jazz drummer who is in his first year at one of the country’s best music academy. After the most respected band instructor of the school hears him practicing, he finds himself in the schools best jazz band. However, he soon realizes that his instructor, Fletcher, has a very eccentric teaching method that not everyone can handle. I found the plot to be mostly original, however I could see parallels to other films like Black Swan. Both deal with the pressures that we put on ourselves, and the pressures that others put on us when we are trying to reach our full potential, or trying to reach the pinnacle of our careers. I didn’t find the plot to be very predictable, however there were a few times when I thought “this is probably going too well, something bad is about to happen,” but I was never able to tell exactly what was going to happen next. I definitely was not able to guess how it was going to end, even when we well into the final scene I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to end. Although it was a fairly simple story, I found it quite suspenseful in many places, which really kept the story interesting, but also easy to follow.

I really found myself questioning how I felt about what was happening in the plot throughout the film. I totally agree with the concept that we need to be pushed, and need to push ourselves in order to achieve greatness. Someone telling you how great you are doesn’t make you great, you need to work for it. However, there has to be a line that shouldn’t be crossed. In this film Andrew’s mental breakdown was clearly directly related to Fletcher’s extreme teaching tactics. The fact that Fletcher heard the news of his former student’s suicide and dealt with it by pushing the drummers to the point of exhaustion showed just how out of touch he was with the effects of his aggression. Even at the end when he clearly pushed Andrew to the point of complete disregard of his own safety just so he could play one song at a competition, Fletcher didn’t look at his behavior as the problem at all, and despite almost causing another students death, he decided to take revenge, when Andrew caused him to lose his job, rather then realizing that he had gone too far. I felt like the film pretty much left it up to you to decide if he’d gone to far, because in the end Andrew delivers an unbelievable performance, and is hard to argue that Fletcher had nothing to do with that.

I thought the film was really beautifully shot, with great lighting and really interesting use of shots. Even the opening shot, looking down a long hallway, and not quite being able to see Andrew playing the drums, but being able to hear it, really set up exactly what the film was going to be about, music. All of the shots in the final scene were also fantastic; they really kept the scene interesting when it could quite easily have become a bit boring because it went on for so long. All of the lighting was great and looked very natural. Some parts were rather dark, but I thought that went with the general theme of the film so I thought it worked.


Overall, I thought the film was fantastic, I would recommend this film to anyone. Like I said, it reminded me of Black Swan, only much less disturbing. The performances were really great, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Miles Teller’s films in the future. I thought the ending of the film was very satisfying, and that is always a great feeling when leaving a film. It is currently #38 on IMDB's Top 250 films list and was nominated for 5 Oscars including Sound Mixing, Editing, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture.  I would give this film a 8.5/10, a very solid film.