Review: Whiplash

Whiplash-Poster

“Drumming?”

This is the answer to the question: “So, what’s Whiplash about then?” The question mark is because the trailer gives nothing about the plot away, while at the same time telling you almost everything you need to know about the film.

Having seen the movie, there is a more eloquent answer to be given, meaning this post will be more than two sentences long. Unlucky!

Drumming isn’t necessarily what the plot is about. You could replace it with anything one has to work at to perfect; athletics, driving, writing. However, drumming is a good choice, especially from the point of view of a film maker. Rhythm is as much about film making as it is about writing a song, which is showcased in the editing of Tom Cross and camera work of Whiplash. In fact, the film looks very good for a film that only cost $3.3 million to make. It feels cinematic for a drama thanks to the cinematography of Sharone Meir and the direction of Damien Chazelle, unlike the rather more televisual feel of The Theory of Everything.

The premise is that a college loner, Andrew (Miles Teller), wants to be the best jazz drummer in the world, which is why he’s at the best music college in America. His aim is to get into the conservatories jazz band by any means necessary. This includes trying to get the attention of the band leader/tutor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), and Fletcher’s unique style of teaching pushes Andrew way past his limits in the search for perfection.

This is the point of the film: How far can a tutor push a student before he over steps the line and how far does an obsession for perfection go before it becomes too much and damages the person searching for it. Both Andrew and Fletcher are obsessed with becoming and finding perfection – consecutively – and both play their parts incredibly well. Miles Teller portrays his character’s growing obsession gradually, throughout the film until he is a completely different person because of it by the end of the film. However, J.K. Simmons blows everyone else off the screen with his explosively tempered, bullying tutor.

By the end of the film you can sympathise with both characters as they are after the same things and neither of them are going the right way about it… or are they? What’s great about the plot is that neither character is prepared to compromise or apologise and both believe that the way they are behaving will lead them to their goal in the end and the film never really takes a side or tells you whose side to take.

The best thing about Whiplash is that it proves that you can make a low-budget film as engrossing as a huge Summer blockbuster without having special effects or huge casts including mega stars. All you need is a good script mixed with great acting multiplied by great technical ability, all this adds up to a truly electric drama, and the central point of the film? Drumming. Along with bassists, the most joked about and overlooked members of any band! Switching the big climactic fight at the end of a Transformers or Marvel movie with a ten minute drum solo also goes to compound that point. It is a stunning scene both aurally as well as visually. Miles Teller plays the majority of the drums shot in the film, with only minor edits needed, which is astounding and worth the price of admission alone.

You’ll never joke about drummers again after seeing this film.

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