Movie Review : Whiplash

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If I tell you that this diabolically entertaining spellbinder is about a student trying to master the arcane art of jazz drumming at an elite music conservatory, you might get all bored and pass on it. That would be really stupid though !! Whiplash is a battle to the death. It’s also a well developed provocation… How much of what makes you human will you sacrifice for a desire to truly excel… ?

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in 'Whiplash'

Plot

A young and talented drummer (Andrew Neimann played by Miles Teller) attending a prestigious music academy finds himself under the wing of the most respected professor (Terence Fletcher played by J.K. Simmons) at the school; one who does not hold back on abuse towards his students. The two form an odd relationship as the student wants to achieve greatness, and the professor pushes him.

Teachers have extraordinary powers in shaping up the future of their students. They have the ability to lead the lost, help the helpless and, in their greatest moments, inspire the creative, lifting them up and pushing them to strive to be the best they can be, then getting them to go even further than that. That does create a fine line, though, where pushing can easily become shoving, and constructive criticism can become abusive derision. It’s this line that is examined, and crossed, in Whiplash…

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Considering the slimness of the plot and the familiar verse-chorus-middle-eight structure of the narrative (boy meets girl, drum meets boy, girl loses boy to drum etc) it’s dazzling how sprightly and inventive this conspires to be. As a director, Damien Chazelle strokes are clean and crispy, with cinematographer Sharone Meir’s energetic camera performing visual arpeggios as it sweeps around the rehearsal rooms. Whiplash is as breathless as a drum solo, rising and falling just as the hopes and dreams of its protagonist climb and crash.

The undoubted star performer of the movie, J.K. Simmons is incredible in a role he’s come close to playing before, but never to this degree. Fletcher is like the evil love-child of Simmons’ own version of J. Jonah Jameson, from the old Spider-Man movies, and Satan. He subtly shows how manipulative Fletcher is from the very first moments he’s on screen. Fletcher is a man who sees no problem with how abusive he is. He thinks it’s just his duty as a teacher and mentor. There is although a flipside to the amount of intensity that flows from the screen throughout the film. The film is so well made and incredibly acted that you feel a bit doubtful about ever putting yourself through it again. That’s how great it is… !!

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