Whiplash Review

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons deliver the best leading performances of their careers with an intensely heart-pounding game of musical one-upmanship in Damien Chazelle’s debut feature, Whiplash.

Andrew (Teller) wants to be one of the best jazz drummers in the world and attempts to achieve his goal by getting into the concert band in one of the most illustrious musical conservatories in the world. The programme’s instructor (Simmons), however, believes in an extreme form of tough love that extends beyond mere put-downs and insults and eventually leads to psychological and physical abuse of his students.

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Chazelle has gotten things mostly right, with only a few subplots feeling out of place. Andrew’s hesitancy to commit to his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) and his relationship to his father (a great Paul Reiser) don’t quite have much payoff beyond one or two scenes, but they aren’t the main attraction here. In terms of tone, the film comes by way of producers Jason Reitman and Jason Blum, and it feels like it also represents a melding of their best sensibilities. The real suspense here comes from the wholly epic battle of wills between Teller and Simmons.

Teller’s Andrew is hard-headed, yet sympathetic, and Simmons’ sociopathic madman might go down as one of cinema’s meanest rat bastards. Throw in wholly unforeseeable twists and an astounding, almost wordless musical finale and you have one deeply entertaining, well acted film.

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