2014 / Director. Damien Chazelle.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I struggle with films during the Oscar season. More often than not the films rarely live up to the hype surrounding them and I feel like I am being forced into retreat. If I hadn't seen the films prior to their nominations then I tend to wait a lot longer before watching them, so not to be affected by the fanfare. WHIPLASH is an exception I made because it was released to home-entertainment the day after the awards and its subject matter was precisely what I was in the mood for on the day. Thankfully it lived up to my expectations and I can completely understand what people were raving about. I wont say that I would applaud it to the extent that many did but had I seen it last year I would have definitely put it into my top 10 and predicted an Oscar nod. It tells the story of a tenacious and dedicated music student who is hellbent on becoming someone "great". To accomplish his dream he must first surpass the expectations of the music school's vicious and nefarious head-instructor. The result is a mesmerising film that is more or less a one-setting narrative that takes place predominantly in a dark and sterile music room. The film's lead actor is the amazing Miles Teller, who has been high on my radar for a few years now. He first caught my attention in the frat-comedy 21 & OVER and he has forged his career by avoiding the cliched Hollywood spotlight and choosing his roles carefully (he was amazing in THE SPECTACULAR NOW). His performance in WHIPLASH is gruelling, exhausting and truly exceptional. Why he wasn't given an Oscar nomination is beyond me. His co-star in the film, JK Simmons, DID win the award for Best Supporting Actor and it was a win well earned. He is incredible as the cruel and feared teacher who pushes his students to physical extremes. What is even more impressive about WHIPLASH is that its director, Damien Chazelle, is only 30 years old. This is such an accomplished film for someone so young and relatively inexperienced. His previous writing credits include the Hitchcockian thriller GRAND PIANO. I praised some aspects of that film but was generally critical of it. It is only now with hindsight that I can apply greater significance to it. Its strong musical aesthetic has given Chazelle an opportunity to lick his chops with the subject and he has a clear skill when it comes to making music an integral part of the story. GRAND PIANO was an important stepping stone to WHIPLASH and he has announced himself as a talented young director with a big future ahead of him. There isn't anything I disliked about the film... heck it was even great to see Paul Reiser return to the screen. He leaves his old schtick at the door and provides a nicely understated support as the father who doesn't fully understand his son's passion... The whole teacher/student theme is a tried and true formula and it has been flogged to death over the years, but WHIPLASH offers a fresh new take on it that propels it to the heights of the most respectable titles in the genre....oh and the film's climax is transcending! Most excellent.