In most car accidents, when the unsuspecting driver is rammed by an incoming truck, his head gets violently jerked causing the spine to suffer what is termed as a “whiplash” injury. Damien Chazelle’s musical drama has a similar effect on the viewer. The only difference is that you are the driver who’s clueless of what’s coming for him, the car seat is replaced by a movie hall chair, and the incoming truck is the movie itself, moving at breakneck speed. So, without much ado, buckle up.
‘Whiplash’ follows the journey of Andrew, a drummer who aspires for nothing short of greatness. His demeanour of composed conceit often matches Zuckerberg’s in ‘The Social Network’. He is not content with mediocrity. He aspires for the stars, but isn’t afraid to grudgingly admit his current place in the dirt.
Into his life walks Terence Fletcher, a renowned conductor with his own illustrious studio band. Fletcher bleeds dry Andrew’s arrogance, stripping him down to the bone until all that remains is his hunger to succeed.
‘Whiplash’ is the love-child of success and suffering, which is an affair to remember.
Watching this film is sure to make you doubt the very morals you were brought up with, as ethics and the will to win start a grueling death-match with your fate depending on the victor. How far can you push a man to win before it gets illegal, and has the fear of illegality softened this generation thereby depriving it of the legends that were born out of blood, sweat, and tears? Fletcher laments the latter when he says, “No wonder Jazz is dying.”
This is a film with powerful actors, nimbly edited, and overall very well made. Miles Teller gives a career breakthrough performance as Andrew, with a lot of his own blood and sweat spilling on the drum sets. None could match the performance of JK Simmons as Fletcher, whose ironclad aura inspired visible fear and awe in actors and characters alike. Simmons lends Fletcher the persona of a lion, as he coaxes and circles his prey calmly before pouncing in for the kill. Once you’re done watching this movie, the words “Not quite my tempo” are bound to send a chill down your spine.
Clocking in at 107 minutes, the movie’s editing is so good that there are barely any fillers or useless scenes. Each sequence is kept taut and precise, and it adds to the storytelling. ‘Whiplash’ builds tension so palpable that it can be cut with a knife. The Academy awarded it with three Oscars – one to JK Simmons for Best Supporting Actor, one for Best Editing, and one more for Sound Mixing.
‘Whiplash’ is a film about music, cut to look like a sports film with thirst, hard work, and exaltation. When this movie gets a hold of you, your heart rate attempts to match the tempo of the drums. Go ahead and immerse yourself in a no-holds-barred saga of guts and glory, in a movie theatre near you. This line from Clint Eastwood’s boxing masterpiece, ‘Million Dollar Baby’, sums up the tone of the movie,
“To make a fighter you gotta strip them down to bare wood: you can’t just tell ’em to forget everything they know; you gotta make ’em forget it in their bones… make ’em so tired they only listen to you, only hear your voice, only do what you say and nothing else… Then you gotta show ’em all over again. Over and over and over… till they think they’re born that way.”
Originally shared on The MIT Post.