How far will you go in your pursuit of perfection? That’s the question that Whiplash poses for the audience. Featuring a pair of outstanding performances, Whiplash is a fantastic and chilling film about one drummer’s journey to be the best.
Written and directed by first-timer Damien Chazelle, Whiplash Miles Teller as Andrew Neyman, who enrolls at a prestigious music school in New York City. It’s here where he sparks the interest of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a cutthroat jazz conductor who pushes his students to succeed and realize their potential. Fletcher is terrifying, reminiscent of R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. He’s loud, he’s crass, he goes too far, he instills fear in his students as he recognizes that those with the potential to succeed will not be intimidated by him. He strikes up a relationship with Neyman and pushes him to the brink. It’s tough to watch, but it’s also enjoyable to watch.
Teller, a great up-and-coming young actor, is great. A natural drummer, he’s a gifted student who has the drive and ambition needed to attend this school. Teller has been making great choices in his career so far, and Whiplash is one of his best. It’s Simmons, though, who’s the breakout star. He hasn’t been best known for starring roles, and is most likely known for his role in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy as J. Jonah Jameson. It’s great that Simmons is finally gaining recognition for his excellent acting ability, and I hope he scores a nomination for this terrifying and excellent performance. I actually felt scared when Simmons would stare down Neyman and instill fear in him. You won’t want to look away.
Neyman is instantly likable in his drive and his talent, and the audience will definitely be able to connect with him. Everyone knows someone like Fletcher in their life, good or bad, and Chazelle wants to tap into that mentorship that everyone has had some sort of experience with. The film seems more or less interested in destroying the conventions of the musical prodigy dramas like August Rush and The Soloist by presenting a dark and gritty look at the collegiate music scene. Fletcher is borderline insane, and the film doesn’t let him off the hook. He throws chairs, he screams at his students, going so far as to scare a student out of the room when he does not play in tune. This is an unhealthy relationship, and the film recognizes that but that doesn’t stop Andrew from pursuing his dreams. In a great dinner scene with his family, Andrew grows frustrated with his family as they fail to realize his success and instead praise his sports-playing brother. It’s certainly representative of how we measure success as a nation.
The drumming scenes additionally are outstanding. Director Chazelle employs brilliant cinematography in those exciting and breathtaking sequences. The first scene in the film is excellent with its slow build-up to Neyman and Fletcher’s first meeting. All of this builds to an exhilarating finale that will leave you speechless. The music of course is great, with great jazz standards courtesy of a groovy band.
Whiplash is the best horror movie I’ve seen this fall. I kid, but this is one electrifying film. Boasting brilliant direction and a pair of awards-worthy performances, Whiplash is a great movie that will inspire you and make you forget everything you know about the music genre.