Whiplash

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Miles Teller in Whiplash
"The film takes on a masterful intesity as mental health as well as music begins to be at stake."

The beat of jazz and the quickened pulse of youthful desire and competition throb through Damien Chazelle's Sundance 2014's Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award-winning film, which also played Cannes' Directors' Fortnight last week. Expanded from his award-winning short film, the emphasis is on grimacing and gritty determination rather than Glee in the fictional New York music school Schaffer Academy.

Miles Teller - who with this and his magnetic performance in The Spectacular Now deserves to be a much better known name - plays Andrew, a single-minded drummer, who finds himself under the tutelage of good cop/bad cop conducter Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons), whose bloody mindedness matchess Andrew's beat for beat.

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Fletcher bangs into rooms like a bass timpani and sighs like a snare drum, his emotions reflecting the unpredictability of the jazz that he teaches, with Simmons, so often wasted in supporting roles in weaker films such as Labor Day, proving he is more than capable of carrying the show. One minute, he's building up his charges, the next he's menacing them to quivering wrecks before dismissively asking, "Are you just one of those single fucking tear people?" His modus operandii is stimulation by humiliation no matter what the cost.

Andrew communicates through his drumkit, taking a single-minded approach that recalls martial arts films. All the time, Chazelle and top-notch editor Tom Cross (Any Day Now) emphasise rhythm, the camera cutting sharply to the beat of Andrew's drums, resulting in a dynamism you might not expect from a movie about an orchestra.

A romantic subplot, which aims to illustrate Andrew's one-track mind when it comes to music, is the film's only weak note and would have benefited from either being more fully developed or set to one side. But that single tear, sweat and even the blood begin to flow, the film takes on a masterful intesity as mental health as well as music begins to be at stake. For all the overbearing intensity of Fletcher its the demon desire within Andrew which holds the most destructive power.

Reviewed on: 29 May 2014
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Whiplash packshot
Under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost, even his humanity.
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