“Whiplash” (2014) by Damien Chazelle

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography: Sharone Meir

Writers: Damien Chazelle

Stars: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons 

Rating: 96

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Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” lives up to the same brutal, unrealistic expectations the characters in the story put on themselves. The incessant need to be great is fueled by the same obsessive, insane drive that J.K.Simmons character pounds into Andrew (Miles Teller) and it demands complete attention to the screen.

Whiplash is a masterpiece, boys and girls.

 

The unassuming nature of the plot begins when Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) stumbles into Andrew, alone, in a practice room, playing on his drums. From that point on, the story doesn’t let go. Even in that first interaction, the fierce tone is set and the motivation is planted into both these characters. What follows that scene is pure, unadulterated tour-de-force performances from both Simmons and Teller. It’s a combination of two actors trading blows pound-for-pound until the last, subtle smile from Andrew and the screen turns black. The intensity from this acting duo is as impactful as anything I’ve ever experienced in film.

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It’s the story of sheer drive and the capacity of persistence in order to achieve greatness. It’s a film that is about finding what we’re made of and that level of comfort that needs to be dragged out by someone willing to push us to the highest level. The competitive relationship between Miles and Fletcher is encapsulated in the story of Charlie Parker getting a cymbal thrown at him and his desire to not be laughed at. Whiplash is the embodiment of that story as Andrew is pushed much farther and harder than our usual capacity of verbal abuse and tolerance.

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The film compounds this discontent and desire to be better in each scene through Chazelle masterfully seeping this stress and anxiety into Andrew. It’s also built through the absolute viciousness of Simmons performance and his unapologetic nature. The fact that Fletcher is obsessively committed to finding the next great musician that he will stop at nothing makes the tension in every scene boil to the surface. However, Andrew does a phenomenal job at staying strong in the face of immense pressure.

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Whiplash is incredible storytelling and most importantly, it makes us feel. We feel the pressure of Andrew desperately working overtime to improve his speed on the snare. We feel the heat in the room, as the cymbals sweat. And the unbelievable sound of jazz and the hard-hitting sound of the drums make every moment unforgettable. We feel the intensity between Andrew and Fletcher, not only through dialogue but the excellent camera techniques and body language from both actors.

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The world melts away when Andrew and Fletcher share the screen. It demands our complete attention, similarly to how Fletcher demands that of his students. I can’t stress enough how good both actors were in this film. Two unworldly performances that never let go of your intrigue. The great part of Chazelle’s direction is the fact that he never takes the attention away from these two dynamite performances. He lets them steal every scene together. The backdrop and lighting in most scenes are solely focused on the subject of the shot, making each moment between the two feel as if nothing else matters. It’s stunning work from Chazelle.

Verdict

Whiplash is simply one of the best films ever made. See it immediately. 


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