‘Whiplash’ is the unexpected thrill ride of the 2015 award season. With mind-blowing performances from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, captivating music, and beautiful editing, ‘Whiplash’ has officially become of my favorite film of all time.
In this inspirational and sinister tale, the acting really makes this film a classic and everything else just reinforces this notion. This movie received rave reviews around this time last year when is was released at Sundance but now it is time for the big leagues, award season! With 5 well-deserved Oscar nominations, this film is the best out of the Best Picture nominees that I have seen so far (haven’t seen ‘Birdman’ and ‘Selma’ yet’).
‘Whiplash’ raises the bar for films with this innovative and exhilarating tale about just wanting to be the best.
‘Whiplash’ tells the story of Andrew Neimann’s (Miles Teller) journey to become a legendary drummer like Billy Rich. His story starts when he starts attending the fictional Shaffer Conservatory music school as a jazz student. The film opens with Teller’s character practicing on a drum set when in walks the schools studio band conductor Terence Fletch, extraordinarily played by J.K. Simmons. To say that Fletcher is tough would be an understatement. Simmons character rides the line of evil person with good intentions almost the entire movie.
He pushes Neimann and his other students so hard that it often causes them to have emotional breakdowns, practice until they bleed, and ultimately one of them kills themselves. If Satan was a band conductor, Fletcher would be him incarnate. Even though this character is extremely unlikable most of the time, you can’t help but fall in love with J.K. Simmons performance. I have seen a lot of great movies with amazing acting this year, but nothing can even touch what Simmons does in ‘Whiplash’. His performance literally made my draw drop and left me breathless with how intense and visceral it was. Simmons has been picking up pretty much every Best Supporting Actor award this season and he is a 1000 percent going to win the Oscar. If he doesn’t, I will burn down the Dolby Theater (Just kidding, but seriously, give him all the Oscars).
Simmons performance is so great that it has almost completely eclipsed the performance of another amazing actor in this film, Miles Teller. Hollywood has had a renaissance of sorts in recent years with a group of young actors consistently delivering amazing performances. I would include Miles Teller in a group that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Shailenne Woodley, Anna Kendrick and Ansel Elgort.
Tellers performance is so good in this movie, artfully showing how the pressure of succeeding and being the best can cause you to fall apart. His character is put through so much by Fletcher and when I say that his drive to be the best almost kills him, I mean it. Throughout the film, Neimann has to compete with two other drummers for parts. Fletcher emotionally and physically abuses his drummers to be better but really the other two are just pawns in a plan to make Neimann the best. There are a lot of scenes that show Miles Teller’s character practicing very intensely so that he can earn the parts and impress Fletcher. The audience gets to see a young man slowly unhinge under the pressure that he is under. We see him destroy a drum set, sweat enough to fill probably a large lake, and play so hard that be bleeds. There is this really beautiful shot of his hand dripping in blood as he plunges it unto a pitcher of ice cold water. It was one of my favorite shot of the movie because it almost acts as a metaphor to how this dream is tainting someone so pure.
After the pressure becomes too much for him to bare, he snap and attacks Fletcher at a concert after he messes up a part. Not long after, Neimann is dismissed from the college but gets revenge by giving a statement that gets the conductor fired. He eventually runs into Fletcher and is given the opportunity to be the best but it goes so wrong but so incredibly right at the same time.
This moment takes place in the last 10 minutes of the movie when Teller’s character is given the opportunity to play with professional musicians in front of an audience that can change his life. In an act of revenge, Fletcher nearly crushes Neimann’s dreams but he makes a comeback in one of the most amazing redemption scenes, of any movie, ever! Teller’s character goes on to play in these amazing songs and does this solo that caused me to totally forget that my bladder was about to explode due to my $6 mop-bucket-sized drink.
This performance literally had Teller’s character put blood, sweat and tears into it. There is one part in this scene when all the music falls away and it is completely silent. The camera does very close-up shots of the symbols that are covered in sweat, vibrating as he hits them. They show the blood leaking out of his band-aids and onto the drums as he plays as hard as he can. Slowly the sound starts to build back and just more amazing moments happen. This is one of the best moments in a movie I’ve ever seen.
‘Whiplash’ is a wild ride from start to finish and really makes you see how inferior most movies are. The film’s incredible blend of acting and music makes ‘Whiplash’ one of the greatest films of my time.
Film Mention gives ‘Whiplash’ a 5 out of 5 film reels.
‘Whiplash’ was released on October 10, 2014 and stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. The film is directed by Damien Chazelle.