James Moules says that Whiplash will blow you away with its energetic intensity
As long as there are artists, there will be artists making art about artists, and consequently there are many movies out there that attempt – to varying degrees of success – to capture the spirit of an aspiring talent. While many great films have been born from this approach, few fire as much energy at us as Damien Chazelle’s Sundance winner Whiplash does.
Whiplash is a thoroughly draining experience, and I mean that in a good way. Telling the tale of a young jazz drummer called Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and his ambition to achieve greatness, Chazelle charges us through a phenomenally vibrant story of obsession, talent and conflict. J.K. Simmons is outstanding as Terence Fletcher, Neiman’s bandmaster, who is an unpredictable and terrifying figure. He uses near (and sometimes actually) abusive and cruel tactics in order to bring the best out of his players. A well-deserved Oscar will likely be coming Mr Simmons’ way.
When I walked out of the screening of Whiplash, I felt the need to go and lie down. ‘Electrifying’ and ‘exhilarating’ are two words that many critics have been throwing around to describe the film, and I can’t stress enough how much of an understatement these words represent. Whiplash is a full on physical and emotional experience that will leave you feeling completely wiped out. It takes a talented director to pull that off, so I think it’s fair to say that Mr Chazelle is one of the most promising young directors working today.
Anyone could see Whiplash through a number of different lenses. Some will see it as a study of the merits and perils of heedless ambition. Some will take it to be a look at the cruel nature of obsession and envy that can drive us to all sorts of wild and unpredictable ends. Others will look at it as an examination of a warped father-son relationship between Fletcher and Neiman. But from whichever viewpoint you look at it, Whiplash is a remarkable cinematic experience. The nuance to every single frame is extraordinary. The music sequences are ferocious. The writing is impeccable. It’s about as close to perfection as movies can get.
It’s hard to watch Whiplash and not be stunned by the sheer intensity of the energy to it. As you see these talented and ambitious musicians battling for greatness through every last drop of sweat, blood and tears, you’ll be enthralled at just how far many of us will go to get what we desire. Obsession can be a powerful force, which Whiplash demonstrates all too well. It might drive you forward, but it also might destroy you. Make a friend of it at your peril.