Whiplash (2014) Directed by Damien Chazelle. With Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Melissa Benoist.
‘Whiplash‘ is the name of a piece of music which is central to writer-director Damien Chazelle’s film of the same name, but it might also be a physical symptom of spending 107-minutes in the company of J.K. Simmons, who plays the role of a tutor/mentor to Miles Teller’s Andrew, a talented young jazz percussionist who dreams of greatness.
In a role that won him an Oscar, Simmons is like the personification of a hurricane, embodying a degree of ferocity that is seldom seen. Between himself and Teller, it becomes a battle of wills, as in how far will one push the other, before there is some kind of implosion. It quite literally is blood, sweat and tears, for much of the duration, as the violently clashing forces of Teller and Simmons’ performance’s reach an excellence that their on-screen characters strive for.
Director, Damien Chazelle, claims to have drawn on his own life experiences, for much of what we see. Like any songwriter expresses the trials of life, by channelling them through music, Chazelle straddles music and film, in order to tell his story in a way that must have been a combination of therapeutic, exhilarating and painful – to see it blossoming back to life through these two violent and intense portrayals.
Of course, music being the central heartbeat of the film, particularly the sound of the drums, the film is potent and alive. Despite the hotheadedness that pervades throughout, the film does switch gears, displaying touching moments of poise, although you’re never quite certain whether it’s getting you to lower your guard so it can hit you square between the eyes with another 100mph outburst.
In short, contrary to what J.K. Simmons’ tyrannical and altogether unforgettable character would have you believe, Whiplash never misses a beat. It’s written, directed and acted with such sure conviction that it will leave you both energised and drained in the space of a few breaths. 5/5