I have a lot I’d like to say about The Place Beyond the Pines but I can’t because it would spoil the plot and that would diminish your enjoyment of this great film. Yes, it’s great and you should see it. Derek Cianfrance has assembled a feature of great power and thought and you should see it.
In fact, that’s the TL;DR version of this review. It’s great. Go watch it before you read this. I’m going to avoid saying anything that would spoil the plot but there’s plenty beyond the plot to spoil and I feel you’d go into this best if you go into it blind.
So go. I’ll wait here. Last chance. Ok good.
The Place Beyond The Pines is a fantastic film about fathers and sons and they’re influence on one another and about sins and feelings that are passed from one generation to another. It follows Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt rider turned bank robber, and Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie cop who ends up involved in his case, and their relationship with their respective sons.
To say it’s a powerful film would be the understatement of the year. Gosling and Cooper as the two leads both give tremendous performances as characters under stresses they never anticipated and circumstances they’ve put themselves in.
Gosling, as with previous performances in Drive and earlier films such as The Believer seems to have mastered the art of calm, quiet rage. The rage in this case comes explicitly from his circumstance and implied self loathing rather than from an unexplored backstory.
Cooper by contrast manages to convey his characters barely covered guilt and fear with a visceral realism, and I can’t help but be reminded that he was nominated for an Oscar last year.
Both these men I am sure will win all the accolades they deserve in the next few years.
Following them is their sons, and Dane DeHaan playing Luke’s son Jason. This kid is going places. He hasn’t been in much, but between this and Chronicle the kid has some chops and I expect he’ll be one of the next big kids on the block.
The supporting cast, rounded out by Ben Mendelsohn, Mahershala Ali and Eva Mendes is pretty stellar as well. I wish Ben Mendelsohn has more to do in the film but that’s a minor quibble.
All of this is of course due largely because of Cianfrance’s directorial style. Much of the film is filmed in long single shot takes shot with unsteadied cameras. The desired effect of this –which often does not work– is to create a more intimate feeling for the film. In this case it works incredibly well, creating the feeling of being right there beside the characters as they are going through their trials.
Further, while many films will have a character (or two) explicitly state the moral or message of the film, Cianfrance elects to show instead of tell; the characters actions inform us rather than the script and i very much appreciate a film that trusts it’s audience in this way.
Cianfrane has only directed 3 features so far, and only two of those have released wide, but he can count myself as a major fan moving forward. This film is ambitious in it’s message and scope and it pulls it off on all fronts.
This one of the films I’ve been most looking forward to this year and I’m happy to report that it’s the first one to knock it right out of the park.