Review: Whiplash

A tremendous short story following a young drummer student locking horns with his sociopathic but passionate mentor.

Andy Neyman is a young student at a prestigious music school studying the art of drums. But when he catches the attention of a notoriously strict but skilled jazz composer named Terence Fletcher, Andy must drastically improve his skills to match the impossible standards asked of him. At the same time he must lock horns with the bull to prove he is capable, risking self destruction along the way.

J.K Simmons has been dominating the media with his performance as Fletcher and with very good reason; the man is a dynamo of emotion and anger towards his students and his presence becomes a force of nature. What seems to at first be quiet, professional precision quickly escalates into a righteous fury, becoming one of the most likeable and utterly unlikeable antagonists in recent cinema, making audiences cringe in dread and laugh simultaneously.

The film is short, about one hundred minutes in length, and not a minute is wasted or repetitive. We are thrown into the story immediately with loner Andy (Miles Teller) quietly practicing only for Fletcher to offhandedly appear and immediately disappear in disinterest. This sparks the inner fire in Andy to become the best drummer at the school.
The entire film hinges on the concept of art from adversity, Fletcher’s technique is completely uncompromising and he liberally screams obscenities at his charges if they make even the smallest mistake. His students are literally made to bleed with the amount of effort required to satisfy his demands. He is terrifying at times, redefining the sort of drill sergeant caricature seen in war movies! But as the film progresses, both characters begin to square off as neither wants to back down from a fight. The tone is incredibly tense and the dialogue often blackly humorous.
Some may say J.K Simmons is cartoonish here, but it is all juxtaposed wonderfully with the quieter moments that prove he is genuine, that he has reason to his method.
Very well shot, awesome music as one would expect. If you enjoy jazz music this film will have you not just completely invested but also tapping your foot in time!
Both Teller and Simmons come from music backgrounds before they began acting, Teller especially played drums, and this can only add to the on screen dedication they show.

As such a simple film about drumming, a subject I know little about but I have great respect for those musically capable, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the film. But as it stands it is a surprisingly visceral, surprisingly intense and very well realised piece of drama.

I’d highly recommend it to anyone. I do have a soft spot for jazz music, but J.K Simmons and Miles Teller give such powerful performances it is hard to tear your eyes away from it. I have trouble thinking of anything wrong with it.

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