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Whiplash (2014)

Developed by: Bold Films/ Blumhouse Productions/ Right of Way Films

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Rating: R

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring:

    -          J.K Simmons

    -          Miles Teller

    -          Austin Stowell

    -          Nate Lang

    -          Melissa Benoist

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Story Time:

I once played in a band when I was younger, it was for a local church, wasn’t anything too big. But I can tell you right away that it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Even if you memorized the whole sheet, playing in front of a live audience is always going to be nerve-racking. This experience was probably one of the reasons why I bit off my entire hand while watching this movie. So yeah, definitely not for the faint of heart.

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Going into this movie, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t watch the trailer or read anything about it. All I knew that it was something about jazz, and oh boy did this movie really did one hell of a job blowing me away.

The story is about a young first year jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller) who was hoping to earn a spot in the top class of the prestigious Shaffer Academy because he knew that the conductor in that class Terrence Fletcher (played by J.K Simmons) is a man capable of helping him become of the greatest of all times. But Andrew soon find that the class he took isn’t exactly a fairyland, it was more or less a boot camp.

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If you look up the definition of the word “intense”, you’ll probably find a poster of this movie next to the definition because this is what this movie’s all about. Chazelle really knows his way around the camera and the way he shot it was just borderline insane, the slow camera movements, the eerie yellow color lighting, the deep bass sound effects all adds into this insane atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of seat for the entire movie. That’s right, get out of here with your intense action movies where bullets fly everywhere, you don’t need none of that. Who would’ve thought that one of the most intense scenario in the world would come from a jazz classroom (ironic, with Jazz being stereotyped by casuals and non music experts as the calm and relaxing type of music).

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The performances in this movie are just spectacular, top to bottom. Andrew Neiman as the lead character is an incredibly interesting character who’s not really a kind hearted hero who works hard, is determined, and never gives up. Oh no, this kid is straight up an arsehole, starting out as a typical kind hearted kid with big dreams then eventually developed into a character that is consumed by madness, greed, jealousy, becoming more and more competitive as the movie goes on. We see him slowly losing his mind and dedicating all his life to his craft, ignoring everything from family, friends, and his own health, stopping at nothing until he earns the position in the band that he wants so badly. And we clearly see that Miles Teller was excellent in the role.

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Of course, we cannot talk about Neiman without mentioning Fletcher, the even bigger arsehole who helped develop Andrew into the horrid person that he is by the end of the movie. A man who also would stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. A man who followed by the principle of ‘the end justify the means’ as he went out of his way and push his students beyond both their physical and metal limitations. The way Simmons delivers the character is just simply beyond perfection. Because the audience here can clearly see that it’s not so much about the physical abuse he gives his students but more on the way he psychologically torments his musicians, by calling them names, insult them in surprisingly creative ways that will make you laugh despite knowing full well that it is 100 percent wrong to laugh.

After watching the movie, I managed to do a little research and at this point I am confident that the character Fletcher was influenced (perhaps partially) by the real life genius drummer Buddy Rich who was famous for his spectacular drumming skill and infamous for his aggressive tendency and foul mouth towards his band members. Fletcher seems to have inherited a lot of Rich’s intensity and Simmons managed to translate it beautifully onto the screen. The best part about this is of course the moral debate behind Fletcher’s actions (‘the end justifying the means’). I always have a good time looking into these kinds of analysis and interpretations, because deep analysis and debates like these are always a good sign for a great movie.

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The supporting cast also did their job amazingly, although admittedly only serve as a tool to further Neiman’s and Fletcher’s characters because those two take up most of the screen time. But most notable of the supporting cast are the two rival drummers for Andrew, Tanner (played by Nate Lang) and Ryan (played by Austin Stowell) who served as incredible rivals for Andrew, showing the audience Andrew’s slow descent into madness and obsession of playing the drums.

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I also have to give massive props to the editing in this movie, because the drum sequence in this film is basically something that can only be done by someone who gave their life to the art that is Jazz. Which isn’t a knock against the actors’ actual drumming skills (which is still amazing). But without the editing powers the film would hardly have come together so smoothly like it did. It’s editing work like these that you could really understand the true meaning of movie magic.

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Honestly the only flaw that I can find in this movie is none! Yeah that’s right, I tried hard to find something to mention as a flaw, tried looking into the directing, the acting, editing, but ultimately came up with nothing. From start to finish, it hooked me in with the interesting character dynamics, the intensity and amazing atmosphere in which I just can’t get enough of.

 

VERDICT

Overall, Whiplash is easily one of the best films that came out in 2014 and I would even wager that it is a strong contender for the best film ever created in this world. It is that good. This is a type of movie that you can analyze, debate, and rewatch it over and over again because it’s basically a piece of art. The more you think about the movie, the deeper you dig, the more layers you will find. The movie helps us understand the struggle of an artist, it relates to the audience because we all have a passion in our life that we are struggling to keep it alive, making it very easy to relate to the characters. Damien Chazelle – with only a handful of movie under his belt and he has already proven he’s capable of movies of this caliber, if he keeps up crafting amazing films like these, I have no doubt that he would easily be my favorite director of all time.

 

SCORE: 9.8/10

Star rating: Star!Star!Star!Star!Half Star

All media in this review is used for the purpose of commentary under fair use. All images used belong to the respective owners.

Yes, I admit this film was primarily the reason why I got into Jazz music, so judge me like the casual I am (still good movie, tho). LITTLE TO NO SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW.

A rough estimate of how I rate things (numbers are only relative):

0= Please kill me now
1= I was "this" close to dying
2= I'd rather have my guts pulled out
3= Erase my memory, please
4= I forgot this thing exists
5= At least you tried
6= Meh
7= Very entertaining
8= Amazing
9= I'll be quoting this for days
10= Try to find something better, I dare you.
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