Movie Review: Whiplash

Title: Whiplash
Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenplay: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
Released: Oct 2014 (US), Jan 2015 (UK)


Intense is perhaps the finest word to use when describing Whiplash. The film—a rather fresh take on the classic mentor-student story—follows Andrew (Miles Teller), a budding drummer and student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, and his brutal instructor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who holds nothing back when trying to realise his student’s potential.

The film is a harsh, gritty look into the art of music-making; displaying little of the joy but much of the passion, ferocity, precision and genius. Simmons’ character is a foul-mouthed, savage, beast of a man; utterly intimidating to his pupils. He believes there’s nothing more damaging than the phrase ‘good job’ and pushes his students beyond breaking point in hopes to inspire the next great virtuoso.

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Into his hands lands timid Andrew, who is filled with delight upon receiving a place in Fletcher’s’ band, but is affected both physically and mentally by Fletcher’s unorthodox teaching methods, which increases Andrew’s passion and drive towards drumming tenfold, but with potentially disastrous results.

Simmons is absolutely terrifying as Fletcher—as menacing as he is captivating—and Miles Teller is entirely convincing as potential prodigy Andrew. His journey from timid freshman to must-be core drummer is completely absorbing and he excels to fascinating degrees during the performance sequences. The film lacks a female presence, but the Jazz drumming scene is surprisingly void of female musicians. Nevertheless, Melissa Benoist was a lovely addition as Nicole. I also enjoyed Paul Reiser as Andrew’s father; an ultimately loving character in a film full of aggression.

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The screenplay was a breath of fresh air, with the dialogue of particular note. The film is difficult to predict and the climax left me breathless. The sepia tinted cinematography, eagle-eyed camera work and tightly knit editing pave the way for further riveting viewing. Some of the more intense sequences are genuinely painful to watch, with Miles Teller communicating flawlessly such raw emotion, discomfort and exertion.

You don’t have to be knowledgeable about Jazz nor drumming to enjoy Whiplash; it’s a stunning story of a young musicians absolute determination and resilience, and his mentors questionable if admirable intentions. Whiplash is the first film I’ve seen this year and it sets incredibly high standards.

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