Whiplash Film Review
Whiplash may not have the most glamourous of selling points with it being a film by an unknown director about a young jazz drummer at music college but believe us when we tell you Whiplash is not to missed. This is a savage physiological thriller that oozes intensity with superb performances from it’s two leads.
Whiplash tells the story of 19 year old drummer, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), as he learns his craft at a prestigious music college. Andrew gets his break when he’s recruited by notorious hard-ass conductor Terence Fletcher (a stunning JK Simmons) to join his in-house band. While leading his troops through a rendition of a jazz ditty, Fletcher’s mild annoyance at his new recruit for being unable to not keep with his tempo increases exponentially to a tirade of abuse. What follows is a sadomasochistic battle of wills between teacher and pupil as Fletcher humiliates Andrew to the brink of meltdown and car crash. Literally.
While certain themes may be familiar with ideas of the artistic end justifying the ruthless means, director Damien Chazelle deals with obsession and the pursuit of excellence better than most seasoned Hollywood directors ever could. In essence, Whiplash is akin to the great boxing movies with master and apprentice sparring for dominance. This car crash, like all good pile-ups, is impossible to take your eyes off and is as gripping and pure as cinema can get – it leaves you exhausted.
Whiplash won the top audience and grand jury prizes at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival with JK Simmons picking up a nod at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor. It’s easy to see why. Simmons has the luxury for a character actor of having a role he can own and run with and he doesn’t disappoint with a chilling performance packed full of intimidation and razor sharp wit. Like all good villains, Terence Fletcher is unpredictable and thanks to a potent mixture of horror and humour he’s utterly compelling.
But Miles Teller doesn’t let the band down with his intense performance as Andrew. Rather daringly, the young protégé is no innocent bystander in this relationship either and practically begs for Fletcher to push his boundaries in order to reach greatness. He’s cruel, selfish, driven, smug, narrow-minded but so stunningly good at hitting a symbol you can’t help but root for him as his talent fades into obsession.
Considering the plot of Whiplash is fairly slim, it’s testament to Damien Chazelle that the film feels inventive and leaves you literally at the edge of your seat. It’s all in the rhythm. This is obviously aided by the virtuoso beats which are provided by Teller and company but Chazelle’s ability to make a film about waiting for JK Simmons to explode fascinating suggests he’s competent enough to have an extremely bright future. The slow zooms, lingerings close-ups and murky lighting only crank up the wafer thin tension. Perhaps his greatest achievement is turning an over-indulgent ten minute drum solo into a roller-coaster dramatic set-piece in itself.
We can’t recommend this film highly enough. Beautifully stitched together and marching to it’s own beat, Whiplash drums up the tension like nothing else in the last year.
Whiplash Film Review: 5 Stars