By: Anthony Zangrillo
Do you love music? Film? Art? Do you have passion? Dedication? Are you so dedicated and passionate that you are willing to give it your all, until you have nothing left to give? If your answer is yes to any of those questions, then you will like, if not love, Whiplash.
Whiplash follows Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a young man who has just begun studying the drums at the country’s most prestigious music school. He isn’t very well liked, kind of awkward, and still goes to the movies with his Dad when he’s free. When Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), the best instructor in the academy, chooses him to join his jazz band, Andrew pushes himself to every limit in order to be the best.
Because the film doesn’t have a very complex narrative, it could come off as dull. Instead, Whiplash is the most thrilling and intense film I’ve seen all year. The drumming scenes often play out like full-blown action scenes, sweat and blood included. Being a drummer and artist myself, I was sweating along with him throughout the film. I felt every emotion, twinge of pain, and pang of frustration Andrew felt. Though the extreme boundaries he pushes could throw some people off, that gnawing feeling of needing to be the best is very relatable. The audience is constantly on the edge of their seat hoping for Andrew to succeed.
As expected, Miles Teller is fantastic. Knowing that he did all the drumming himself makes it even more impressive to watch. His intensity is shared with co-star J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. Simmons has played intimidating characters before, but here he perfects it, as he is terrifying, almost sociopathic at times. But he is complex, his moral standing left ambiguous; the character is by far one of the most interesting I’ve seen this year. The two actors bounce off each other effortlessly, carrying the film. As the only two actors in the film, Teller and Simmons bounce off each other deftly, which is a sight to behold.
The film is gorgeous; director Damien Chazelle is clearly a jazz lover and his film shows it. The film cuts in rhythm to the music playing, making the film feel like one long jazz performance. You feel the passion for music bleeding from the screen. The ending scene is breathtaking; it alone makes the movie worth the watch, a masterful musical performance in a narrative film with a perfect ending. Chazelle’s writing is often very personal, but at the same time very accessible, because he touches on universal emotions. By raising the stakes, he makes an intense film. As he said it himself in a press conference during TIFF, “I wanted to show people I could make a musical thriller,” and it’s clear that he accomplished just that.
Beautiful, thrilling, and passionate, Whiplash is one of the best films of the year.