Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dark Review – Whiplash

Dark Review – Whiplash

Written by Casey Douglass

After watching Birdman and getting royally pissed off with the “walking-drumming” music, the prospect of going to see a film that appeared to revolve around drumming didn’t immediately appeal. It’s a credit to Whiplash’s trailer that I finally came around to seeing that it was a film about striving for excellence, amongst other things. It also helped that part of my mind pointed out that the shouting ball-busting teacher character sounded a lot like how I talked to myself about my writing abilities. Did I get any motivational tips from Whiplash? Read on to find out.

Image © Sony Pictures Classics
Whiplash follows the story of 19 year old Andrew Neimann (Miles Teller), a first year student at a prestigious music school. His instrument of choice is the drum-kit and the film begins with him coming to the attention of elite conductor Terrence Fletcher (J.K Simmons). This moment lights the touch paper to what is already a strong desire in Andrew, and sends him straight towards becoming the drummer he has always wanted to be. Except, “straight” is hardly the right word; Andrew’s path meanders from success to calamity and back again with stunning swiftness, much of it orchestrated by Terrence Fletcher himself. He builds him up just to knock him down again. If something isn’t right, they spend hours and hours and hours going over and over and over it, with the rest of the band waiting in the wings, rolling their eyes but glad it’s not them being targeted by his ire.

Image © Sony Pictures Classics
It isn’t all drumming however. We get to see Andrew spending time with his dad Jim (Paul Reiser) and girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist). The film certainly needs these non-music based scenes to give the audience a little breathing space from the high-intensity ball-busting moments. After you’ve seen blood on a drum-kit, some peace is quite appreciated.

Image © Sony Pictures Classics
I enjoyed how the film writ large on the big-screen the troubles and mental issues of trying to become one of the best at something, along with the possible consequences. Andrew makes various choices that seem to cut much of “life” out of his life, which leaves the audience wondering if they would have done the same thing or if it was really necessary. It makes no odds as Andrew very much thought it was. Another constant theme is the “get back up if they knock you down” one, highlighting the effects of persistence and not just luck or ability. Finally, the film passes through a kind of freeing moment where things flow for Andrew because he has pushed on into a more self-confident and ballsy mental state.

I loved Whiplash and I still find myself thinking about it days later. It would have been a film that I wouldn’t have imagined enjoying to the degree I have, let alone looking forward to picking up on Blu-ray when it’s released. Did I get anything out of it with regards to my own creative life? Maybe, I’m still chewing it over.

Rating: 5/5


  1. Nicely reviewed Casey. If I could only see one film this year it is this one. I hope I love it as much as you and pretty much everyone else.

    1. I think you will Paul, I think people of many different outlooks can watch it and get different things from it.