Sunday, 28 April 2013

FILM: The Place Beyond The Pines (8/10)

Why did I watch it?
I'll admit it, I was drawn to this film by the Drive factor of the trailer. Ryan Gosling playing what looked to be a simplistic small-time bank robber, making his getaways using his 'unique set' of skills, being a brilliant motorcycle rider, seemed to be echoing many of the best traits of Nicolas Winding Refn's film.

What's it all about?
Set in Schenectady, N.Y (meaning 'the place beyond the pines' in Mohawk), the film transpires to be much more than the trailer advertises. Three chronologically told stories, dominated by relationships between fathers and sons, weave together the lives of two families inseparably across two generations. Gosling plays travelling motorcycle stuntman Handsome Luke, who after returning to Schenectady, learns he is a father following a fling with Romina (Eva Mendes) the previous year. By chance his path collides with ambitious police officer Avery Moss (Bradley Cooper), himself father to a one year son.

Should you watch it?
Director Derek Cianfrance's film links together three separate, yet interlinked, stories of two families in a manner that is certainly not without risk. Roughly a third of the film's two hour plus running time each, the shift in narrative and characters, certainly from the first to second, is so sudden that it caused the film to lose all momentum on two occasions. Being led, deliberately no doubt, in one direction by the trailer, I found myself checking my watch after 50 minutes, so sudden is the shift in story. Second time around was less of a shock, as I began to appreciate what Cianfrance was trying to achieve. However, given the fragmented nature of the narrative, being asked to invest in three stories, each slightly less enjoyable than the previous, totalling two hours plus  is stretching the capacity of the audience.

That's the negatives out of the way.

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder
Saving and driving The Place Beyond the Pines into success, is the standard of the film's cast and Cianfrance's and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt's visuals. Starting with the cast, the performances of leads Gosling and Cooper are first rate. Gosling's bank robbing rider channels all of the raw, stoic cool, audiences have become accustomed to, while Cooper is excellent as the troubled, professionally and emotionally, police officer, under pressure from wife, father and colleagues. The accolades shouldn't stop there, Mendes gives an emotionally fraught performance as Luke's old flame, Ben Mendelsohn was my favourite as Luke's partner in crime and Ray Liotta dials in the menace as only he can as a corrupt cop asking more of Avery. Youngsters Dane De Haan and Emory Cohen, also hit the right notes with their performances, even though I have to say I didn't like either character.

Going back to the visuals, the film looks stunning, with some excellent vistas and use of colours, interspersed amongst the scenes of bikes racing through streets and forests and personal nature of close-up shots during more intimate scenes.

Certainly different to what I was expecting when I took my seat, Cianfrance took some risks with the plot and didn't win them all but The Place Beyond The Pines is nonetheless a strong film anchored by an excellent cast, superb visuals and strong script.


  1. Cianfrance certainly swings for the fences in this one. While he did not hit it out of the park, I will take this stand up triple over most of the drivel at the cinema lately.

    I agree that those trailers were a bit of a set up and I can see folks being bummed out a bit after viewing, but I really enjoyed it.

    We reviewed this a couple of week ago, when you get the chance swing by our humble film blog and check it out.

    1. Hey, thanks for the comment. I did enjoy the film and didn't feel too dismayed with the huge shift in plot in comparison with the trailer but it reminded me of Drive, where some lady decided to sue the producers for false advertising!

      I'll pop by and see the 3guys perspective soon.

  2. Good review man. The cast is great and always keep this movie moving, it's more that the script that helps them; doesn't do that. By the end, II started scratching my head as to what I was really watching and whether or not the last story was totally apart of the one with Gosling.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree that the cast excelled and maintained interest while the plot lost momentum. I felt that the Gosling chapter was definitely the most memorable and could have been much longer. I was certainly clock watching during the final act.