The Place Beyond the Pines - Review by Gene Rich

Gosling and Cooper deliver spellbinding performances as their lives intertwine in this dramatic powerhouse of love, death, crime and punishment.

There is no simple way to explain this film. It is part love story, part thriller, part action and all drama. There is not a single weak performance from the entire cast and Cianfrance’s direction and script are superb in their ability to be astounding and understated in equal measures, an achievement unto itself. In a movie that could easily be made into two separate films, Cianfrance has been able to seamlessly tie the two parts together with great effect leaving the audience full to the brim. This is not a happy movie, I’ve just gotta say that. There are times when I was cringing to the edge of my seat; I just wanted it to end but the ability of all the actors to convey their emotions without overacting was a beautiful thing and it kept me interested and engaged throughout, that and an intriguing story.

It would be an outrage if I were to review this film without spending a little time on the two main actors, right? Ryan Gosling, super crush of all girls world wide and indeed many a man crush, delivers yet another flawless performance. If you’re thinking to yourself, “What? That guy from The Notebook and Crazy Stupid Love?” then do yourself a favour. Go out and rent, buy or download three films; Drive, Blue Valentine and Lars and the Real Girl (he plays a weirdo who falls in love with a mannequin, need I say more?). If you’ve seen these films, or even if you haven’t and want super intense, ‘you can see all the emotion leaking out of my face without saying a word’ kind of acting that Gosling seems to be able to do with the maturity of a well-seasoned actor, then watch this film – he is unmatched. 

The other main actor in the film is of course Bradley Cooper. Perhaps best known for his comedic roles in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover series, Cooper is starting to assemble a very respectable back catalogue of serious films including Silver Linings Playbook, Limitless and The Words. All fine films and his performances outstanding but in my opinion in this film he’s really hitting his stride. As a cop struggling to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, corruption within his own precinct, a wife who wants him to leave the force and an overbearing father who wants the same, Cooper keeps it all together in a performance leaving us rooting for him in an unlikely way and feeling for him all the while.

The support cast, if you can call it that, is truly remarkable. Eva Mendes is great as Gosling’s long-suffering Latino lover. Ray Liotta is formidable as the colleague of Cooper. The two young men who practically steal the show, Emory Cohen (TV series Smash) and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle and Lincoln) are equal to anything their seasoned counterparts throw at them and complete this film in the same way it started, unabashed, simple and understated. We’ve even got our Australian contingency in Rose Byrne and Ben Mendelsohn, playing major supporting roles and as always, doing a fine job of it. Mendelsohn is on a role after his critically acclaimed performance in Animal Kingdom and has scored some choice roles in Killing Them Softly, The Dark Knight Rises, Knowing and even a cameo in the massively successful HBO series Girls. Rose Byrne, perhaps best known for her role in Bridesmaids, has been doing well in Hollywood for a while with roles in Get him to the Greek, X-Men: First Class and her major role in the TV series Damages. 

David Cianfrance directs and co-writes this movie and it is his second collaboration with Ryan Gosling after their critically acclaimed Blue Valentine. Cianfrance has been able to achieve performances from his actors generally reserved for the highly experienced directors and is the envy of all up and coming film makers of today. His shot choices are so well juxtaposed with the dialogue that it makes even the most pleasant of scenes uncomfortable and the most dramatic, beautiful; a technique usually left for arty French films, yet he’s done it in a way that helps rather than hinders the plot. One of the main factors must be his Director of Photography, Sean Bobbitt, known mainly for his work on the beautifully shot 2011 film Shame. The score of this film was created by Mike Patton, of ‘Faith No More’ fame. This is his second attempt at the job after Crank: High Voltage and I must say, he’s done a pretty good job. As you would expect, if you are aware of his work, menacing at times and angelic in others, Patton has found a way to squeeze even more emotion out of a scene that already feels like it’s about to explode and does so with a deft touch. Hats off to the man. 

All things taken into account, this film is extremely good. The story is beautifully crafted and intricately told. The world Cianfrance has created is believable, tangible and gritty. The performances leave nothing to be desired and give the audiences much to think about once the movie is finished. Highly recommended for the film buff, drama junkie or Ryan Gosling fans out there (are there any left?).


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