“Whiplash” Review ✦✦✦✦✧

16 January, 2017

Year of Release: 2014
Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenwriter: Damien Chazelle
Director of Photography: Sharone Meir
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: While attending a prestigious music school, a talented drummer is handpicked by the strictest professor in the academy who pushes the young man to breaking point in a bid to produce greatness.

Whiplash Review:

There’s a moment in “Whiplash,” near the beginning, where a dewy-eyed Miles Teller rushes down the stairs seemingly late for band practice and he takes a tumble, landing on the floor with an almighty thud. It’s here that we are told, through a plain and simple visual cue, what we are in for with this movie; in a single bone-crunching crack we see the first stumble on the road to hell and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Whiplash” is about going beyond the limits, limping past breaking point, and scaling the mountain between mediocrity and success. It’s a film where a millisecond of hesitation or a moment of idleness can make or break someone’s life as Damien Chazelle’s quick-fire script mimics the intense and impossibly fast reality of a drummer on the edge of greatness. As sweat drips and blisters pop, “Whiplash” employs an up-close-and-personal aesthetic, booting us in the stomach every time J.K. Simmons raises a fist in displeasure and slapping us on the wrist whenever we attempt to crawl back inside our comfort zone.

Unlike the swoony “La La Land,” Chazelle’s first hit movie is a harsh and prickly movie, impossibly smooth in execution yet razor sharp while in motion. Moments of respite come few and far between and they’re rarely gratifying in a traditional sense as the higher up the ladder our hero climbs, the farther he has to fall. At its most intense, the movie implores us to retain a sharp ear, leaving viewers on edge during an entire jazz performance as the conductor waits to pounce like an army sergeant out to humiliate the weakest recruit.

It’s in this space between hate and admiration that Chazelle works his magic as torment turns to talent and cracks begin to appear on both sides. “Whiplash” presents music as a sport and Teller as our quarterback working towards success, yet the closer he moves towards his goal, the more embroiled in despair he becomes. In this sense, the movie rejects the idea of natural talent, suggesting instead that the star player is bred from complete misery. There’s a real truth to this though as each time Simmons grabs us by the neck it becomes harder to deny the pain and effort that goes into a full-scale victory.


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