The Place Beyond The Pines * * * * 1/2

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Director: Derek Cianfrance.
Screenplay: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Bruce Greenwood, Harris Yulin, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Robert Clohessy.

When director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling collaborated on the grim, but excellent “Blue Valentine” in 2010, they explored the dissolution of a married couple’s relationship. Two years later, they’re at it again with yet another personal journey about the relationship between fathers and sons. The results are no less impressive than their previous delivery and, this time, arguably better.

Motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling), meets one of his old flames Romina (Eva Mendes). It turns out that Romina has a son and Luke is the father. Luke then decides that he wants to provide for him but it leads him into robbing banks where he crosses the path of a rookie but ambitious policeman (Bradley Cooper). Their altercation ends up affecting more people than they ever expected.

A triptych movie – divided into three parts – where Cianfrance adopts a deliberate pace and allows his characters the space to grow and develop. First off, this is the most impressive element to the film; the characters are all three-dimensional with deeply emotional drives and motivations as Gosling, Cooper, Dane DeHaan and relative newcomer Emory Cohen, all get ample time to find their feet and get into their roles in each of the chapters. Despite the maleness on show, an impressive Eva Mendes flits in between them with a solid turn in what is a very underwritten role. It’s through the committed performances that we are easily able to identify with each of the characters and become embroiled in their tangled relationship that spans a generation. Cianfrance’s scope is highly ambitious and for the most part, very successful. In the first third he focuses on Gosling’s, Luke and his life of crime while striving to support his family and delivers some very intense heist scenes, one after another (all the more impressive as they were apparently done in one take). Much like his performance in “Drive“, Gosling combines good and bad so well. He’s able to exude an innocence but also an underlying darkness that few actors can achieve. It’s this very combination of qualities that has Gosling at the forefront of contemporary performers. There is an absolute smouldering intensity to him. Then, just as we’re getting to know Luke, the film takes a shift towards Cooper’s tortured police officer, Avery Cross, in the mid-section. The blending and shift in tone is seamless and impressively delivered but as much as I was a big admirer of Cooper’s recent, Oscar nominated performance, in “Silver Linings Playbook“, he doesn’t quite have the gravitas to make this role work for him in the same way. He does well and can’t be faulted too much, but he’s too blue-eyed to cut it as a tortured soul here. The intensity that Gosling brings to his role is the very thing that Cooper fails to capture. This may be slightly unfair on Cooper as he’s by no means bad, but it only serves to show how strong Gosling is. His performance actually permeates the remainder of the film once he’s gone but it does still stumble without his presence.
Cianfrance then goes on to finish the saga by audaciously jumping 15 years ahead. At this point, the director fully states his ambition and although admirable, he also stretches credulity somewhat. That being said, the film is so well delivered that it’s acceptable and just about gets away with it. Unfortunately, the father/son relationship that runs deep within becomes a little muddled and relies far too heavily on a coincidental encounter. With Cianfrance stretching his canvas so far it almost tears apart, held only with the most tenuous of threads. His ambition is almost too vast in relation to his material or more appropriately his running time. I could easily have watched another half hour for the latter characters to be fully rounded and any shaky plot developments ironed out.
However, the more I’m writing this, the more I’m realising that I’m being quite critical. It’s not my intention to put this film down, I’m merely pointing out the things that stop this film from being a five star experience. It’s very nearly there and I enjoyed it enormously.

Vast, immersive and marvellouslly assembled. With “Blue Valentine” and now this, Cianfrance is proving to be a very exciting director to look out for. It’s early doors, but so far, this is the best of 2013.

Mark Walker

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53 Responses to “The Place Beyond The Pines * * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice review. I still have to check it out but I loved Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine and I’m excited to see it.

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    • Thanks man! I was a big fan of Blue Valentine as well but I’d say this just about betters it. I know many would disagree but the subject matter appealed more to me and Cianfrance’s scope for far more ambitious.

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  2. Good review, Mark. I personally felt Cooper actually outdid his Silver Linings performance here, but we can at least agree that Gosling was still great. Not a perfect movie, but I’m not really sure it even needs to be. Still quite good in its own right.

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    • Cheers Chris. I enjoyed Cooper but I thought he showed more vulnerability in Silver Linings and he could have been doing with bringing a little more of that to this role. Not a bad performance but I found Gosling far more intense and wanted to see more of his character.

      I agree that the film isn’t perfect but like you say, it doesn’t really need to be. It’s sheer ambition alone is highly impressive.

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  3. I’m hoping I get a chance to watch this tonight, if you liked I know I will as well.

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  4. Good review my friend. This one has been give a wide assortment of scores. Glad to see it worked for you. Makes me a little more inclined to check it out. Good stuff bro.

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    • Cheers Bro! Towards its unravelling, I did find a few flaws, but the overall experience is mature and ambitious filmmaking. It’s refreshing to find such a film so early in the year. I’ve not caught many new releases this year, but this still stands as my favourite so far.

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  5. Fine review, Mark. I still need to see this.

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  6. Great review man, I’m interested in seeing this.

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  7. Mark, I suspected you would enjoy this one. Still my favorite film so far this year. What impressed me most was how ambitious this film was.

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    • It’s ambition alone deserves credit, Adam. It wasn’t flawless but still very impressive. You’d be right to suspect I’d like this, this is the kind of film that’s right up my street. 😉

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  8. Great work, Muckers! I’ll catch this sometime – I just watched A Good Day to Die Hard – did you write about that one?

    Boat Drinks!

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    • Thank you sir. It’s well worth a look.

      I didn’t see A Good Day To Die Hard and I don’t think I ever will. I gave up after the third one. I completely lost interest in Die Hard movies.

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  9. you liked it then, excellent! (I knew it!)

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  10. Nicely reviewed as always. One of my favourites of the year so far and made me appreciate Bruce Springsteen’s Dancer in the Dark all over again!

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  11. Glad to see you like this one Mark. I might give it a rent, but as you know, I’m actually not fond of the cast. I heard that Eva Mendes is dating Ryan Gosling because they met here?

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    • I did like this one Ruth. I like it very much. Didn’t know you weren’t too keen on the cast, though. You’re not a fan of Gosling? Man, I think he’s the best young around at present. He can be very intense yet exudes a certain charm and charisma. Didn’t know that about him and Mendes either. That’s two pieces of info in one comment 😉

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      • Ahah, seems like people are surprised I don’t like Gosling. I don’t know why but I just don’t find him all that charismatic nor compelling, in fact I kind of find him do annoyingly smug. Seems like the more people adulate him the less I like him, ahah. I put him in the same box as Pitt. Plus he was so terrible in Gangster Squad. I might give Lars & The Real Girl a shot though (I like Emily Mortimer) and maybe this one too (because you like it so much), but only as a rental 🙂

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      • Aw man! Gosling is class. Each to their own I suppose. 😉

        Can’t wait to hear what you think of Lars and the Real Girl, though. That’s one of my favourite performances from him and a great little film.

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      • Yes I realize I’m in the tiny majority, but it is what it is. Can’t always agree with everything and everyone 😀

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      • A “tiny majority”? Please don’t say that the majority don’t like Gosling. Ahaha! 😉

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      • Oh I meant minority, sorry!! No, I think a lot of people LOVE him, but hey, I can’t change how I feel. I prefer the more underrated ones Mark, I mean heck, I’d gladly take GB back before I swoon over Gosling, ahahaha.

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      • Oh, I meant to say. I read a small article in the newspaper today where Gerry Butler was on a German TV talk show cracking walnuts with his buttocks. No joke! Is this what he’s been getting up to these days? LOL.

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  12. Lol!! Look at you, giving people a vocabulary lesson! 😀 “A triptych movie – divided into three parts” Well, damnnnnnnnn…

    Good review bub. I’m with you, it wobbles precariously in the third part of the triptych 😉 but its still a great flick. Year ends today, and this is in my top five.

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    • What? Too much, you think? It does sound a little patronising, doesn’t it? That wasn’t my intention LOL.

      Glad to hear you rate it in your top five Fogs. I see what you mean by the year ending but I normally just categorise it from Jan – Dec. This is the type of film I’d have expected to be released just before the oscars but to realise a film of it’s type at this time of year was very refreshing. I normally hate movies at this time.

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  13. ray brayne Says:

    The key to the film maybe the opening scene. Three men cycling their bikes round and round in a unisphere, so fast you lose track of who’s who. Make of the symbolism what you will, religious, poetic, or metaphysical, it is thematic. I see it as an atom. The indivisible nucleus of all life extended across time. It weaves all the stories together and then begins again. Riding off into the ending to start the cycle anew!

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    • That’s a good insight Ray. I was very impressed with the opening scene but didn’t delve into it’s significance. That’s as good as any theory or opinion I’m likely to hear on it – that viscous, endless cycle. Well spotted, sir!

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  14. Excellent review, agree pretty much with the rating (I’d knock half a star off!), and all the points raised. I sometimes found it a struggle, mainly because it feels like three films in one, and you have to re-engage yourself each time.

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    • Cheers Monkey. I can see what you mean by re-engaging yourself time after time but I only really had to do that for the third segment. I thought the shift from Gosling to Cooper was perfectly handled. I do think some creases needed ironed out but overall it was still a great film.

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  15. I skim read it as I really want to watch it as unspoiled as I can. Happy you scored it so highly though brother!!! Good work 🙂

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    • Cheers bro! I think I managed to avoid spoilers for the most part, so you’re fairly safe here. It was actually more difficult to avoid them than first thought.

      Great movie, though. I really like it, man.

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  16. Brilliant review mate. I’ve seen this get scores right across the board. It got a really shitty release near me so didn’t get chance to see it unfortunately but a 4.5 from you is definitely enough to make me check it out on Blu when it’s released.

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    • Cheers Chris. I loved it but then this is my type of genre. Sprawling crime drama’s always appeal to me and most things Gosling touches these days, turn to gold. Hope you catch it soon bro!

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  17. samfragoso Says:

    Glad you liked the film too. One of my favorites from TIFF last year. Don’t entirely understand the backlash it has been receiving.

    Blog looks good. Keep up the good work.

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    • Hey Sam,
      Good to see you dropping by. Yeah, I had a few gripes but really they didn’t affect the overall ambition and scope of the film. For the most part, it was very well delivered and I was thoroughly impressed by it. Great movie!

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  18. Great review here, Mark. I was a big fan of this as well — it’s on my shortlist of favorites from this year so far.

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  19. Popcorn Nights Says:

    I need to see it…read a lot of good stuff about this and enjoyed Blue Valentine, but I think I’ve missed this in the cinema now, especially given that we’re in silly season and you need 10 screens for every Man of Steel-type release. Sounds ace though.

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    • I hate this time of year as well because all the screens are swamped with the same film. However, it was refreshing to catch this and for a film of this type to be released when it was. If you liked Blue Valentine, then I’m sure you’ll like this one too. I thought it was brilliant.

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      • Popcorn Nights Says:

        Nice one, it’s down for Lovefilm now so will wait for the DVD. Christmas probably!

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  20. Stunning movie and one of my favorites this year. Nice to see you also enjoyed it!

    Like

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