Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J K Simmons, Melissa Benoist
Director of Photography: Sharone Meir
Music by Justin Hurwitz
Running Time: 107 Minutes
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”
The movie opens to a black screen, in the background, a snare drum. As the tempo builds, in bold white letters, the word “Whiplash”, fades in and back out again. The tempo continues to build. Faster and faster the tempo rises until the light snatches away the music. A solitary drummer, poised over his weaponry, is spied upon from down the hall. The lighting is ominous. As the drummer begins to continue the camera slowly starts to move in. The drumming gets louder. The drumming gets faster, but as the camera finally catches up to the solitary drummer the music is snatched from us once more. Lurking in the shadows, Terrence Fletcher, the borderline sadistic, egomaniacal studio ensemble director with a teaching philosophy that dictates that the only route to success is through pain, embarrassment and hours and hours of hard work. We begin to see these traits almost instantly as Fletcher, played by JK Simmons, fires out both demands and abuse before storming out, just to reappear with a whimsical “whoopsie, I forgot my jacket” leaving the drummer, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) confused and dejected. Neiman is awarded a place in Fletchers band but the battle remains. The battle between success and comfort. The battle between desire and pain. The battle between student and teacher. Diamonds are formed under pressure, the question is, how much pressure can you take?
For a jazz ensemble to succeed every component must come together in perfect harmony and this movie plays like a perfect ensemble. Damien Chazzelle brings every aspect of film making together for a truly immersive experience. Not only is the acting incredible but the soundtrack is nothing short of exceptional. Ebbing and flowing, pacing and slowing, the soundtrack dictates the tempo from the very first second to the very last, reaching a crescendo in the final scene. A final scene, I might add, that is one of the most intense and gratifying final scenes I have ever seen. Alongside the Oscar winning acting, sounding editing and film editing, lies the beautifully complimentary aesthetic. Almost every still in the film would be at home alongside some of the best photographs in the world. This movie truly blurs the lines between photography and filmography highlighting and emphasising the very best of both. With extreme close ups of intricate detail followed by longer shots taken through the clutter of musicians and their kit, the visuals mirror and intensify the emotion and action of the journey that unfolds before us.
This movie will resonate with anyone who has ever pushed themselves to their limits, but especially those who were pushed by an overbearing instructor.