Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller and J.K Simmons
Based on his experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash will be one of the most intense and frankly heart attack inducing films you will experience this year. There’s as much sweat, blood and tears shed in this film as in a war movie. Director/writer Damien Chazelle has delivered one of the best drumming thrillers in years, if not the only one.
Miles Teller plays Andrew, a young, talented and enthusiastic drumming student at New York’s prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school. His dream is to become the next great drummer, the likes of Buddy Rich, or Keith Moon (for those who don’t know too many drummers).
He manages to make his way into conductor Terence Fletcher’s jazz studio band, but soon finds out that being Fletcher’s core drummer is probably one of the most dangerous things a person can do; much like being on the front line, but instead of bullets coming his way, Andrew has to dodge flying chairs and cow-bells.
Not quite my tempo.
The film plays out much like a thriller or a war movie, with two sides constantly at one another’s throats. On one side, J.K Simmons’ psychotic music instructor, and on the other, Miles Teller’s relentlessly determined drummer. The two deliver fantastic performances, both worthy of much praise, which is not what Teller’s character gets in this film.
The constant abuse, both verbal and physical, hurled at Andrew by Fletcher can be at some points unbearable, and will make you forget those dreams of one day taking up the drums. However, the scenes between the two are incredibly tense and will have you on the very edge of your seat, heart pounding, hands sweating. Watching this film feels almost as draining as Andrew’s constant drumming.
One could describe Fletcher’s teaching style either as a war of attrition, beating his students into submission until he gets the very best out of them, or as just plain evil, using bullying tactics to traumatise his students until eventually they have had enough.
Were you rushing or were you dragging?
The film has started an interesting debate about exactly this, the way in which we teach, not only in music, but also academically and in sports. Every person will have stories about mean teachers, yet can these teachers and instructors really push people beyond what they think they can do, or do they just push them over the edge.
J.K Simmons embodies this bullish character perfectly. His movements and his physical appearance are note perfect; sporting a tight black t-shirt, making sure to show off his muscles, which brings to mind a macho bull fighter, ready to take on anyone who dares to question him, and his methods. It is a remarkable performance which is matched by Miles Teller’s quiet, shy, yet determined portrayal of Andrew, a young man who will go to extraordinary lengths to succeed.
There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job
The film is both beautifully and intelligently shot, especially the use of close-ups, which focuses the action on the two protagonists. We can see every bit of pain etched onto Andrew’s face, every bead of sweat dripping from his brow, covering his whole body, and yes, every drop of blood shed over the sheer amount of effort he is putting into his drumming. The film is relentless and all the better for it.
Damien Chazelle has created something very special in Whiplash. Tense, traumatising, electrifying, depressing and uplifting, which takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions, all resulting a barn storming finish.