Friday, December 26, 2014

Whiplash Review

Whiplash is the most intense movie I've seen since The Grey.  As a reminder, The Grey is about Liam Neeson being constantly attacked by vicious wolves in the desolate Alaskan frontier.  Whiplash is about a jazz orchestra.

Directed by relative newcomer Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is about a young man named Andrew (Miles Teller) who is accepted into one of the top jazz orchestras at a fictional music conservatory, reminiscent of Julliard or Yale.  Once in, Andrew encounters Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) a sadistic instructor who torments students in order to create true artists.

Fletcher may be one of the most fascinating characters ever put on a screen.  J.K. Simmons' performance is unpredictable and terrifying.  He has such a powerful stage presence, it's no wonder the performers in the band (many of whom are real musicians, not actors) look panic-stricken whenever he is conducting.  I'd be shocked if Simmons doesn't net a Best Supporting Actor nomination this year.

Miles Teller is equally commanding, if in a less showy way. We as an audience come to realize Andrew is just as damaged as Fletcher, just in different ways.  The movie is about these two vain, selfish, cruel humans navigating around each other and clashing.  It's explosive.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, I spent the entirety of this film clutching the arm grips of my chair.  I had no idea what was going to happen next, and I was scared to find out.  This independent film about a jazz orchestra is more thriller than drama, and it's certainly one of the best movies of the year.