Whiplash, a film that was not on my radar at all I have to say is actually rather fantastic, an engaging and compelling film from start to finish, it features the enthusiastic and ever vibrant JK Simmons in one of the best performances of his career and Miles Teller as the dedicated, single minded drummer aiming for glory.
Miles Teller, though this isn’t his breakout performance or anything gives a really spirited performance as the single minded Andrew trying to be the best drummer he can be, he works off Simmons excellently and you can tell from the get go that the two will be at odds, having the most dysfunctional teacher-student relationship possibly of all time. JK Simmons plays Fletcher, a bit of an asshole but an accomplished conductor to a classical, well respected jazz band, he aims with questionable methods to elevate his student musicians to great heights, pushing them as hard as he can to try to achieve perfection. Simmons as Fletcher helps to make this movie, bringing life and tension to the movie and making it one gripping ride, he falls short of physical aggression towards his students but he’s every bit as intimidating and menacing as a man can be, without being 6’5 or really muscle bound and that is great acting.
And therein lies the tension and suspense you get in the story between Andrew and Fletcher, with the two wanting the same things in essence but with Fletcher just going a few steps too far, the level Andrew goes to later in the film to continue playing for the band borders on the unbelievable but it provides a fantastic conclusion.
The characters in the film are pretty well constructed and compelling to watch, mainly in Andrew and Fletcher of course but also in terms of the people in Andrews’ life, his long suffering and worrying father, wanting the best for him and a potential love interest for him that he leaves behind. Seeing a bit of depth to Andrew was quite interesting and while it would have been nice to get more backstory for the character, you do understand his motivation, albeit questionable and ill advised. And plot wise the film flies along, at around 110 minutes, it’s so god that you want it to be longer, you still want to see what happens next, especially with that ending and of course the musicians in the film and the instrument playing itself is fantastic.
Not being versed in classical music and different terms, it’s interesting that JK Simmons character still helps the audience to try to understand his frustration and to see the different between rushing and dragging for example, the ‘not my tempo’ scene, one of the best in the film is tense and gripping. And to the untrained ear, (me, you, any non-instrumentalist) you just can’t tell that Andrews’ character is apparently rushing, just a nod to the talent, dedication and attention to detail that goes into being a musician in that type of music.
Attention to detail is another thing the film does well, especially with its quickfire and functional editing, used to tell things happening in a scene or take us through the plot more conveniently than with showing us with a minute scene. Whiplash has great features and is a great film, a straightforward plot elevated by great performances, a controversial theme running through it and it makes for a great, thrilling watch.
. Great performances by Teller, Simmons
. Straightforward but gripping plot
. Great editing and fantastic instrument playing, Miles Teller especially