Film Review – Whiplash (2014)

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Title: Whiplash (2014)

Director: Damian Chazelle (Guy and Madeline Sit on a Park Bench)

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons, Paul Reiser

Plot: Wannabe professional drummer Andrew (Teller) finds himself a new member of renowned conductor Terrence Fletcher’s (Simmons) jazz band. Under Fletcher’s ever judging ear and violent mouth Andrew is pushed to the outer most limits of his ability.

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”

Review by Eddie on 25/02/2015

Who knew jazz and drumming could be so ripe for heart stopping narrative drive? Culminating in one of the more tension riddled finales of recent memories and featuring some of the most brutal ego tearing scripting this side of Full Metal Jacket, up and coming filmmaker Damian Chazelle’s searing drama is against all odds, a drama cume thriller of the highest order.

Featuring some of last years most outstounding performances from both the ever growing Miles Teller and the always good yet never before so commanding J.K Simmons, Whiplash will have you constantly on the edge of your seat, frequently forgetting to breathe and riveted every step of it’s running time due to an all round package that has rightfully become a player and often winner in this awards season. It’s stunning to consider this is one of Chazelle’s first features and for a man perhaps best known for scripting the Elijah Wood thriller Grand Piano, this is a sure fire heralding in of a major new filmmaking talent. Chazelle handles proceedings like a true professional, the editing, the pacing, the direction of actors and the award calibre scripting is all of he highest order and it’s evident throughout that Chazelle is a naturally gifted filmmaker. Whiplash truly is an exciting mix of dramatic tension and thrilling interplay between budding musician Andrew and egotistical conductor Terrence Fletcher that sees Chazelle draw out a pair of rivals that will live long in the lore of cinema history.

Since his arrival on the film scene in films such as Rabbit Hole and more recently The Spectacular Now, Miles Teller has threatened to break out at any moment and if The Spectacular Now was not proof enough, there is little remaining doubt after this effort that Teller is one of the finest examples of young talent in the industry today. Teller’s character of Andrew is a multilayered one and one that doesn’t necessarily win over our affections completely. His a complicated young boy, driven to the point of arrogance and not overly warm, yet his a figure we want to see succeed, if not only to spite the evil incarnate that is J.K Simmons’s Fletcher.

A recognisable face over many years of supporting work in Hollywood, it’s a true joy to see Simmons unleash in a stunning portrayal of a man driven to drive others to the point of no return. Whether spouting out some of the most vile abuse possible or talking calmly to potential future musicians that he can use in his band, Terrence Fletcher is a force to be reckoned with, a tornado of aggression and pent up rage. It’s one of 2014’s stand out performances and a role that saw Simmons collect a thoroughly deserved Oscar at the Academy Awards, it’s a win that is wholeheartedly earned and deserved.

While Whiplash has a few narrative missteps and a handful of questionable scenarios (particularly one scene involving a car accident) it’s not enough to sully a film that you suspect will be living a long life in years to come, being studied by start out filmmakers, budding actors and lovers of all things good cinema. Just don’t go showing anyone considering a potential sojourn in a music school, as Terrence Fletcher may just be enough to scare them away for good.

4 and a half bloodied drum kits out of 5

 

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30 responses to “Film Review – Whiplash (2014)

    • Cheers Greercn, glad you agree 🙂 It was great to see Simmons up on stage, it truly was one of last years most memorable performances, one that will no doubt remain in the memory of those that see it for years to come.
      E

  1. to me, of all the oscar best pic films, only whiplash and boyhood connected in a place where the average movie watcher could identify with. everyone has been pushed, not to that degree (hopefully), but we can identify. again, great review.

  2. It’s a very enthralling movie that I enjoyed. I wish we had gotten into Andrews motivation for putting up with this maniac a little more. He seemed kind of flat to me but still very good movie and i agree Simmons is mesmerizing

  3. The other win that was clearly deserved was for editing. This movie is cut together so fine that there is not a wasted moment and the tension gets racketed up repeatedly. An amazing film, it was my favorite of last year.

  4. great write up mate!

    I especially loved this one as I am a drummer – as soon as I heard about it taking festivals by storm I had to see it. And it finally came, I even went to the September debut and two times again to see it in the cinema. I thought it was my personal bias but almost everyone seems to be floored by this film, including yourself. And rightly so, the drumming is fuckin’ mental!! Was that Teller doing that drumming? His bloody fingers are not exaggerated either, I play fast metal and you can tear up your fingers when trying to play 250 bpm easily. When I saw this film I saw myself.

    I don’t have a Fletcher in my band – my Fletcher is in my own bloody head! Perfectionism, uuggghhh! Its a curse, one I seem to share with both characters of this flick!

    Very deserving win for JK. He reminded me endlessly of Oz and his Schillinger character. It was like he got to ressurect that crazy psychopath into a slightly different person, still a psychopath though haha. ;P

    Didn’t know Chazelle had scripted another movie, I’ll have to investigate further.

    cheers guys

    • Thanks for sharing buddy! Great to hear from a drummer their thoughts on this. I actually re-watched this just last night and wondered to myself what those in the profession think of it.

      From what I can gather Teller is a drummer from a young age but didn’t do all of the drumming here. Some of it is perhaps just to darn mental!

      It’s great to see Whiplash get so much love and it’s ranking in the iMDB Top 250 suggests it has a long life ahead of it.
      E

  5. Yeah some of the solos and fast beats were near inhuman. But its pretty clear the guy does play at some point of talent.

    As a ‘musician’ this movie floored me. Several references to tempos, time signatures, certain beats that are all subtle and don’t make non-musicians feel a bit left out.

    My favourite camera shot is during -that- finale, the camera shows the kick drum being thumped so hard it is shaking like all hell. Little things like that really added to the overall presentation I reckon.

    This was also the first movie I have ever given a perfect score to (granted I only started doing this in late July though) as it -changed- me. It changed my entire outlook towards drumming, towards practicing (which we all hate but need to do) and also how musicians interact together in a group, whether it is an ensemble with a conductor or a band – the same dynamics still apply.

    If you are interested I am starting a movies n music ‘series’, analysing movies about music or super amazing soundtracks. First will be Inside Llewyn Davis, then the next Monday I’m gonna have another look at this flick from purely a drummer’s perspective.

    Great to hear and see people loving the film, I really thought it would be only me. A movie about a jazz drummer, it doesn’t sound like thrilling film material, as you say! But all the screenings I attended were met with standing ovations. All three. I think it was popular down under ay!

    Sorry I have written a mini-essay here, I shall shut up now 🙂
    cheers mate

    • Nah mate we appreciate people expressing there thoughts about movies, that’s why we started this little blog 🙂

      It was a pretty low key release down here sadly but I’ve been talking to a few people lately and I sense it is going to have a pretty popular release in home formats, as it came out here last week to rent/own.
      E

  6. Great, well written review of a magnificent film. I’ll be tackling my own review of this very film later tonight, as well as Night at the Museum 3, so check them out if you get a chance!

  7. It’s good to see a review of Whiplash giving Teller some credit. Simmons steals the movie (rightfully) but Teller actually does a lot of the heavy lifting and adds the credibility to Simmons’ nasty bastard character.

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