Whiplash is simply astonishing.
Miles Teller plays Andrew, a gifted and highly ambitious drummer in his first year at an elite New York music academy. There his talents are spotted by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an equally ambitious coach and mentor who is always looking for the “next big thing” but has never found it. However, there is a very thin line between being an “ambitious coach” and a terrifying bully, and Fletcher constantly crosses that line sometimes inflicting a terrible impact on his young students.
In an almost uniformly male environment, love interest is served from the cinema concessionary stand by Nicole (the charming Melissa Benoist) who the shy and uncertain Andrew finally plucks up the courage to ask out on a high-point in his emotional roller-coaster.
The ‘school for protégés’ theme has perhaps been trodden before by movies like Alan Parker’s “Fame”, and some of the emotional and creative jostling of elite musicians has appeared in films such as 2012’s “A Late Quartet”. But none of these deliver the degree of passion and intensity metered out in Damien Chazelle’s movie.
Miles Teller (“Divergent”) is superbly credible as the aspiring jazz drummer Andrew, and it is almost unbelievable that he was not a professional drummer-turned-actor for this film. In fact, the more accomplished jazz drummer (very different to rock drumming apparently) is Nate Lang who plays Carl, his key competitor for the “percussion 1” role (see here). The two were apparently locked away in a drumming ‘boot camp’ for 2 months prior to the movie being filmed.
But the starring role in the film goes to J.K. Simmons, probably best known in the supporting role of J. Jonah Jameson, the cranky editor of the Daily Bugle in the Spiderman films (and a number of other Marvel spin-offs). Simmons is quite simply astonishing, channelling the sort of Oscar-winning performance of Louis Gossett Jnr (“An Officer and a Gentleman”) into his vicious drill-sergeant-style performance. He has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor role for both Golden Globe and BAFTA awards, and I would fully expect him to feature in the Oscar shortlist when they are announced on January 15th. Personally speaking, he will be the one I will be cheering for in the awards themselves.
Cinematography by Sharone Meir is outstanding, with every drop of blood, sweat and tears glistening on forehead and cymbal. The editing by Tom Cross is also extremely tight, winding up the tension during key encounters. The combination of the two together with Chazelle’s tight script effectively spears the audience in the gut.
The feature is based on Chazelle’s short film of the same name, and on this basis he is a name to watch for the future.
Gut-wrenching and enthralling, this film will spit you out the other end feeling emotionally drained. This is simply a film you MUST see. Let me drum it into you again. GO SEE THIS FILM!
Fad Rating: FFFFF.