Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle, 2014) – A young drummer’s ambition leads him to a mentor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
An intense, powerful visual statement on passion and true drive – Whiplash strikes relentless and reverberates long after its final note.
Don’t let the trailers fool you. Whiplash is so much more than a movie about jazz drumming. Intense and at times punishing, the unique drama pulls the audience along on an unexpectedly breakneck ride driven by ardent passion, living up to its titular promise.
The film follows the journey of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), whose aspirations find fuel in the unorthodox training of a cutthroat mentor. Though excessive in searing denigration, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) only has his students’ best interests at heart. That he promises, between successive slurs with a sprinkle of spittle.
‘Obsessive’ describes them both, each with one goal that they know only to pursue.
Drill Drum instructor Fletcher believes in pushing his students well beyond their perceived limits. Neiman fully devotes to his dream of becoming the best jazz drummer, worthy of Fletcher’s approval and a lasting legacy. Giving up all in their lives and dedicating every second to the art, their tense dynamic continually tightens and clenches hearts.
Sweat cascades. Blood hits the drums. Hours pass, and acidic insults continue to rain. Intimidation turns into impetus as Neiman grazes his breaking point. But the young man persists. Amid striking imagery and frenetic beats, the musician’s gravelled path to success unnerves with his impossibly fierce ardour for perfection.
Having come a long way since the affecting Rabbit Hole, Miles Teller continues to stun in his display of emotional range and now, a hidden talent for percussion. He possesses a rare genuine air that makes most root for him, in his conviction for esteem in the music world and family alike. Throughout his character’s dramatic chase for eminence, it is his performance that makes every second convincing.
His credibility is matched by an equally fantastic J.K. Simmons. His Fletcher garners as much fear as he does a little respect with his unconventional motivational speeches. Gripping without ever descending into tiresome contrivance, the Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of music conservatories is terrifyingly memorable, in all his unapologetic harshness and a hint of dark humour.
The pair play off each other with perfect rhythm and – despite severity of the taut climate – harmony in their pursuit of greatness. Amidst all that tension, the message may not be obvious at first. But when the pressure finds room to subside, inspiration will begin to surface in this powerful opus, which deserves a lasting ovation long after the curtain falls.