Whiplash

2015/01/img_2080.png

Director: Damien Chazelle.
Screenplay: Damien Chazelle.
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, Suanne Spoke, Max Kasch, Charlie Ian, Jayson Blair.

“If you deliberately sabotage my band, I’m gonna fuck you like a pig”.

One simple word springs to mind when I think of Whiplash. Just one word… “Oz“.
Those that are familiar with the HBO series that ran from 1997 to 2003 will no doubt remember the brutal intensity of the white supremacist character Vern Schillinger. It was one of my first experiences of actor J.K. Simmons and ever since then I’ve been a big fan. Now I’m not suggesting that Simmons is the only thing about this film that strikes you but he’ll mostly be the thing that leaves you continually thinking about it.

2015/01/img_2082.jpg

At a highly prestigious music school, 19 year old Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is determined to prove his worth as a drumming student. However, in order to prove himself he has to go through the exacting conductor Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher is a man who accepts nothing but the best and to impress him becomes an arduous ordeal for young Neiman.

2015/01/img_2081.jpg

Inspirational teachers are often depicted in film with great respect and admiration. They often touch the hearts of their pupils and bring out the best in them. In Oscar nominated turns, Richard Dreyfuss’ played music teacher Glenn Holland in the little-seen Mr. Holland’s Opus and as the passionate English professor John Keating, the late Robin Williams achieved the same in Dead Poets Society. Two thoroughly heartwarming characters that inspired their students to want to learn and grow. Whiplash, however, takes an altogether different path; J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher certainly inspires his students but it’s not through admiration or respect, it’s through spite and a determination to prove his vehement criticism wrong. As a result, the film becomes a highly charged, back and forth, exchange between teacher and pupil.

The back and forth tension between the two characters almost reflect the instrument at the centre of the film itself; caught in Fletcher’s snare or marching bass, Neiman is like the clashing symbol trying to break out. There’s a constant beat between them that director Damien Chazelle captures wonderfully. He has complete control over his scenes and when the moment is called upon to hold tight and build the tension, he does so with the ability of a director with twice his experience. Added to which, he manages to maintain this approach until the very end, making Whiplash a great achievement in only his second film (after the Jazz musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench in 2009 he originally delivered Whiplash as a short film which won the Short Film Jury prize at Sundance Film Festival before being funded for a feature length film).

2015/01/img_2085-1.png

In order for Chazelle to realise his vision, though, he must have the actors to pull it off, and he does; Young Miles Teller breaks free from his earlier romantic comedy roles to deliver a work of real maturity while Simmons is simply electrifying. As mentioned earlier, though, if you’ve seen Oz then this will be of no surprise to you. He’s an absolutely ferocious and towering presence that dominates every scene he’s involved in. Having already won numerous critical and festival awards including the Golden Globe – as well as being hotly tipped to take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar – it finally looks like Simmons has caught people’s attention. I can only say… it’s about fucking time. Simmons has been doing outstanding work for over 20 years now. No matter how big or small or how dramatic or comedic, he always delivers and no one, at this time, is more deserving of praise for their efforts than this man. Welcome Mr. Simmons! There’s certainly no need for introductions. It’s always a pleasure having you.

An intensely powerful and personal film that turns, what could be a generic and dull drama, into one that’s gripping and absorbing from the offset. It’s masterfully directed and outstandingly performed and when films of this nature creep up on the ‘bigger’ films of the year it not only demands your attention, it’s deserving of it.

2015/01/img_0946-1.jpg

Mark Walker

Trivia: Miles Teller, who has played the drums since he was 15, received blisters on his hands due to the vigorous, unconventional style of jazz drumming. Some of his blood was on the drumsticks and the drum set as a result. While J.K. Simmons suffered two cracked ribs when Miles Teller tackled him during a scene.

Advertisements

54 Responses to “Whiplash”

  1. Another of my faves from last year. Beautifully shot and edited, too. Fine look at this, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Solid review my friend. Very intriguing film and undeniably intense. I too have always felt Simmons was a great actor who rarely got the respect he deserves. And I think he is amazing here. But I have a weird reaction to his character. For me he almost comes across as a cartoon. Sometimes he is so over-the-top and relentless. That’s not a reflection on Simmons performance which is superb, but it did hold the film back for me, at least a little.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, sir! I can see what you’re saying about Simmons being cartoon like. He was definitely chewing the scenery but I still lapped it, man. He was the real draw for me. I was impressed all round but Simmons hit the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great stuff mate, I like your passion for Mr Simmons. He deserves all the plaudits coming his way. Maybe I should check out Oz if I ever get the time.
    In the interests of occasional disagreement being healthy…this one’s a nailed-on five-star job for me; of all the big hitters I’ve seen of late, Whiplash is probably the one that I enjoyed the most.

    Like

    • Oz is great, mate! It might seem a little dated now but I really loved that show until the last couple of seasons where they lost their way story wise.

      Haha! Healthy disagreement is always welcome, my man. I’m glad our relationship is reaching this next level LOL. I see what your saying, though, I actually considered a 4.5 rating. To be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t just go with my gut on that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Simmons. I’ve always liked him as a character actor and it is nice to see him get the limelight. Over here in the states he’s the spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance. Everyone needs a paycheck. Now, perhaps, he can branch out more and star in more quality films like Whiplash. Nice review, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cindy. I’ve been aware of Simmons for quite some time and always admired him. He’s even brilliant at comedy and if you can get cast by the Coen Bros on a few occasions, you can’t be doing too bad. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review Mark, this was a real highlight of last year!

    Like

    • Cheers James! A definite highlight. I was actually going to overlook it, thinking it wouldn’t be for me, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s a marvellous film and I wonder why I don’t actually rate it higher.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I do wonder whether I would place it as the best of the year…

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s certainly up there with the best of them, man, but it’s been a strong year for me. As much as I love Whiplash, I’m not sure it’ll even make my top ten. I’ve enjoyed the year that much!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow, this has been a great year for you then!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, man. Last year started great for me. After seeing Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac around Jan/Feb, things got off to a great start and I absolutely loved a lot of stuff. Still to make my top ten list, though.

        Like

      • I look forward to reading it when you do. There’s a few that I missed last year, Nymphomaniac being one of them in fact.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The only reason I haven’t posted my list yet is strictly down to indecision. I feel bad about leaving certain films out. It’s really hard, man. But I’m nearly there. I strongly recommend Nympho, though…. The film I mean, not a real Nympho. Although that might appeal too!? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! I will check out the film soon hopefully.
        Are you going to do an honorable mention for those films which don’t quite make the cut? It will be interesting to know which ones you had to put to one side.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I actually don’t often do top tens of the year because they are so difficult but on this occasion I think it’s a must that I do honourable mentions. I think there’s a least five films I reckon could have made my favourites in any other year.

        Like

  6. Nice review Mark, this was the highlight of 2014 for me. J. K. Simmons was amazing, wasn’t he? I’ve always enjoyed his work, and his performance here was his best yet.

    Like

  7. Teller and Simmons are both spectacular here. The movie’s good, too, it’s just that they were the two people here I was most impressed with. Good review Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Without the performances of Teller and Simmons, you’d have to wonder how the well the film would work, Dan. The direction was spot on but it’s the performances that really bring it alive. Cheers mate!

      Like

  8. One of my favourites of the past 12 months. Loved it. The performances are absolutely superb and the direction brilliant. This deserves a Best Director nod over The Imitation Game any day. Great read mate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m really not interested in The Imitation Game, to be honest, mate. I’m struggling to to be enthusiastic about The Theory of Everything too. However, I nearly avoided Whiplash as well but I’m glad I didn’t. It really was a superb piece of filmmaking and a direction nod would not be out of place at all.

      Like

  9. daveackackattack Says:

    Mark as someone who went to music school (Berklee College of Music in Boston) back in the late 80’s I have a unique perspective on this. My teachers could be intense or serious but nothing like what’s portrayed in the movie. No musician would put up with that shit. Seriously. Even though it was a bit over the top J.K. Simmons was great. Not sure if he was scarier here or in Oz. LOL. Hard to believe he was the dad from Juno. Miles did a great job on the drums. Ironically Johnny Simmons (no relation to J.K.) who did the drums in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was cast in the original short by Chazelle. Can’t wait to see more from him. The movie reminded me of a cross between Shine and The Great Santini. Man the whole thing was just electric. As pure entertainment goes there wasn’t much better on the big screen than Whiplash last year.

    BTW that’s an awesome poster. I hadn’t seen it before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I can totally understand Simmons being over the top for some, Dave. Especially with an experience of music school, man. Like you say, though. He was still fantastic and as piece of entertainment, it was edge of your seat stuff. I honestly never expected it to be as gripping as it was. It was thoroughly enjoyable indeed and I’m not sure if Simmons was worse here or in Oz either, and I never thought I’d say that. He was something else in Oz.

      Like

  10. By the end of this film I really found myself wondering if actually Fletcher’s methods were totally justified based on their results… and that’s what made it a good film.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Abbi. That was part of the films cleverness. It definitely had you questioning and thinking about Fletcher and his approach. Was he a sociopath or actually a genius of his craft? Great stuff!

      Like

  11. Great review, Mark! 🙂 I really enjoyed this one & Simmons was amazing. I’ve not seen Oz but now I’m intrigued…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Disco Girl! If you enjoyed Simmons here (and who doesn’t?) then I’m sure you’d take something from Oz. It’s not all about him, of course, and it’s very violent and disturbing at points but it’s very brave television.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Cool review! I adored this film. Had me on the edge of my seat. Very energetic and just superb in pretty much every aspect. My favorite of 2014 (so far).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jackdeth72 Says:

    Good job! (oops!):

    Excellent piece, Mark!

    Couldn’t have expressed it better, myself!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I still need to see this one Mark! J.K. Simmons sounds like the opposite of the warm & understanding John Keating, he looks so scary in all the pics that I’m glad I never had a teacher like him. Not sure if I could’ve survived, ahah. I’ve only seen Simmons in smaller roles, and he’s always memorable, so nice to see him in a prominent role that sounds like a career best for him.

    Like

  15. Well said Mark. What a film! It goes straight for the jugular without hesitation. I’ve now see it twice and although the first viewing was a welcomed surprise, it lost none of its vigour or ferocity second time round.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I watched every episode of Oz and I too knew how intense J.K. Simmons could be. He was mesmerizing. Miles too was pretty great as well. Loved the film. Great review.

    Like

  17. Top stuff mate, I thought this was absolutely brilliant. It’s got some flaws if you look too closely but it rattles along at such a pace that you just don’t really notice them. Can’t wait to see it again!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dude that trivia makes this film even more badass. Wow.

    And personally, I think Simmons is the only thing I see at this year’s Oscars as being a sure-fire thing. He was sensational.

    Like

  19. My favorite of the year. More thrilling and intense than the very best thrillers, and brilliant performances by Simmons and Teller. Also, that final sequence…one for the ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I won’t argue with you there. It’s an outstanding thriller in its own right and, like you say, the performances are electric. I was thoroughly impressed with this one too.

      Thanks for dropping in 🙂

      Like

  20. Fantastic review Mark! Finally got to this recently and I was super impressed with it. Intense watch, but it is so worth it. I loved how it took a look at the different types of inspiration, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. How far is too far? Whiplash really takes a look at that, and I loved it. Simmons was just phenomenal, and I thoroughly enjoyed Teller, too.

    Like

    • Cheers Zoe! Great to hear this worked for you too. An unconventional thriller that was more gripping than the usual formula from that genre. Simmons, hands down, deserved his Oscar but young Teller was also superb. I expected to like the film before going into it but I wasn’t prepared by just how much I would like it. Great flick!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I enjoyed it okay, but afterwards and during actually I thought, well, that’s a stretch. I don’t think a teacher could get away being that caustic and offensive.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: