Film is my life’s passion. Since I was a little kid I’ve always loved movies (hence why I have this movie blog). Outside of that passion lies a few others of mine. There is Baseball (which a few might pick up on my baseball analogies I like to use) and I also love music. I wished in my life I took music more seriously and started playing and practicing at a younger age. No matter though I truly do love listening and dissecting music as well. So naturally when there is a movie about a musician I am immediately drawn to it (unless it’s something like “Drum Line” or “Step Up”). “Whiplash” had me very interested from the first trailer I saw from it (and also hearing all the Oscar buzz around it furthered my interest), but I wasn’t prepared for how good this movie actually was. “Whiplash” is a masterpiece of human triumph and perseverance. This film’s emotional core is so intoxicating and the tension felt throughout is greater than that of almost all action movies out there. “Whiplash” is boasted with two amazing performances by the lead actors and incredible direction from Damien Chazelle; this film is unforgettable.
A young and promising up and coming drummer enrolls into a music conservatory with dreams of becoming not just a great drummer, but one of the best drummers around. He works hard to gain entrance in a class taught by a man by the name of Fletcher. One of the best music teachers around, this young drummer knows if he can get into his class he can achieve his dream. However soon he sees to the repetition that Fletcher has earned over the years. It isn’t long before Fletcher’s cutthroat attitudes, and ways of teaching start to drive this young drummer psychologically to his breaking point
The performances here are so incredible (which we will get too later) but what’s getting overlooked in all that praise is the undeniable genius direction of director Damien Chazelle. Chazelle has a terrific film mindset; framing his shots perfectly, graceful camera movements and excellent editing skills that it brings the film to a level that it wouldn’t be under someone else. The tone he sets for the film is calculated and precise. This movie feels more like a suspense physiological thriller than a movie about a musician. Even at some points this reminded me of a masterful David Fincher production (which is excellent company to be mentioned in).
The film is such a winding violin of tension (no pun intended there). It starts off with a great looking and promising drummer just working hard and having some fun in the process to the moment he is accepted into Fletcher’s class, then everything changes. The movie starts building up the tension and dynamic between the student and the master. Each new scene with them adds to the growing tension between them until the very end where your stomach feels knotted and curled up. You’re rooting for Andrew (the young drummer played by Miles Teller) to overcome and (in a sense) defeat Fletcher’s cruel teaching but you’re somehow memorized by Fletcher as a character and his philosophy makes sense to you that you’re drawn to him as well, and don’t completely hate him. The movie made me struggle with myself and every time these two characters were on screen together I couldn’t take my eyes off it because the tension felt so real and more intense than a wild west shootout.
Bringing these two character’s dynamics to life are actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. We’ve seen Miles Teller in quite a number of films. The quality range in those films certainly are in many different places (some good, some bad) but Teller has always shown great potential and here he shows why. Teller is astounding to watch on screen. He does almost all the drumming himself and he is able to act with such bridle inner passion that it carries over to his character in the film. He is a bit socially awkward but he strong willed and has to be to have the mental capacity to pass Fletcher’s class. All this brought brilliantly to screen by Teller.
Playing his counterpart is the soon to be Oscar winning actor J.K. Simmons. No one in that category can match how brilliant Simmons was in this film as Fletcher. Simmons is able to make what could have been nothing more than just another “drill sergeant” type of role and turn it into a role with complexity and ambiguity. Simmons is powerful, his prescience is commanding but he shows some other sides to him that makes you think about his character long after the movie is done. Was Fletcher a brilliant teacher with an extreme way of teaching or was he just a sadistic creature that loved waging a psychological war on his students? All this is brought from Simmons’s ability to use subtle and extreme examples of acting to bring out all this different facets of the character.
It’s not very often I come across a film that I have almost no issues with. In the entire 2014 year I only gave one other movie a perfect score (“Boyhood”) and some days I think this could be the best of the year (and others the latter). But, either way this movie will not leave my subconscious anytime soon, and will be a film that will be watched and discussed many years from now. I obviously saw this much later than most and some still haven’t seen it but if you can find a way to watch this before the Oscars, please do you won’t regret it.