Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Whiplash

At some point in our lives, we’ve all had a teacher. Be it in school, in work or somewhere in between; somebody has taught us something and we’ve strived to impress them. But, outside of the military, I don’t think any of us have ever encountered, or could handle, someone like Terence Fletcher. Intimidating, aggressive, scary and downright abusive; Fletcher is the mentor from hell. But he’s one of the most memorable film characters of the last few years, thanks to one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen.


Directed by Damien Chazelle and out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes the phenomenal Whiplash. Based on his short film of the same name, Chazelle fleshes out his own story and creates one of the most compelling and riveting music films ever made. Miles Teller stars as Andrew Nieman, a young music prodigy who finds himself in the cut-throat world of jazz drumming under the tutorship of the feared but respected Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons). As Andrew’s battle to earn Fletcher’s respect becomes more intense, his mental state worsens as he is pushed to the very limit. When I first heard the story of Whiplash, I didn’t have much interest. Jazz drumming? Abuse? Sounds like a fun night at the movies. But beneath Whiplash’s rather simple plot and few characters lies one of the deepest and most personal pieces of cinema I’ve seen in a long time – writer/director Chazelle pursued jazz drumming in high school, under a very intense instructor who served as the inspiration for Fletcher – and you can feel that this must be almost autobiographical at times. Fletcher is a character so outrageously cruel that you couldn’t make him up. 


Whiplash features two of the finest performances in recent years. Firstly, you all know how good JK Simmons is in it – he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance – so I won’t waste time telling you what you already know. However, in reviewing Whiplash it would be remiss of me to not state that he is absolutely mind-blowingly phenomenal as Fletcher. But it’s Miles Teller as Andrew Nieman who brings the blood, sweat and tears – literally, and often all in the same scene – to the film. Providing all the drumming himself and genuinely shedding his own blood on-screen during the more intense sequences, Teller doesn’t get nearly enough love for his work here. Teller, with several fantastic indie performances behind him now and soon to be seen as Mr Fantastic in the upcoming Fantastic 4, is going to be the next big thing. Mark my words.

And unlike many character-based dramas, it’s not all about the performances. Whiplash is an exceptionally well-made film across the board. The screenplay is exceptional, and is one of the key ingredients to the film’s frantically perfect pacing. Even on the third and fourth viewings, Whiplash flies by without a moment wasted. The sound is ridiculously powerful – obviously, for a drumming film – and the film’s soundtrack is one of the coolest and jazziest in years. Now feels like a good time to say that, if you hate jazz (as so many inexplicably do), don’t worry. You don’t need to enjoy jazz to enjoy Whiplash. Although that being said, ‘enjoy’ feels like the wrong word. Whiplash is tense, dark and often difficult to watch. But it’s a very rewarding experience.


In this current world of remakes, reboots and sequels; Whiplash is a breath of fresh air. At this year’s Academy Awards, films like Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash dominated the night, while films like Boyhood and The Theory of Everything got one or two awards each. This is a great time for Hollywood. After years of generic, cliché-stuffed nonsense taking all the awards, the Academy finally seem interested in giving the bigger Oscars to the more deserving and more original pieces of work. Whiplash is one of the finest films of the last 10 years by far. Featuring two superb performances and perfection across the entire production, I cannot fault Whiplash in any way. Films like this make me want to be a filmmaker…as long as Fletcher isn’t the one showing me the ropes.

Drumroll please! Whiplash hits all the right notes and earns a solid 5/5.

★★★★★

Sam Love


Whiplash at CeX


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