RELEASED: 16th January 2015
DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle
CAST: Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Ellee Jane Hounsell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gumpton, Suanne Spoke, Jayson Blair, Charlie Ian, Kofi Siriboe, Kavita Patil, Michael Cohen, April Grace, Henry G. Sanders, Max Kasch, C.J Vana, Tarik Lowe, Jocelyn Ayanna, Keenan Henson, Marcus Henderson and Tony Baker
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $48.9m
AWARDS: 3 Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing & Best Sound Mixing), a Golden Globe (Best Supporting Actor) and 3 BAFTA’s (Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing & Best Sound)
A promising young drummer enrols at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realise a student’s potential.
Whiplash focuses on Andrew Neimann, a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Andrew plays the drums for the school band and aspires to become a world-class drummer. Famed conductor, Terence Fletcher, invites Andrew into his Studio band and Andrew soon begins to learn excessively harsh teaching lessons from Fletcher, as well as his obsession to achieve perfection begins to take its toll on him.
It wasn’t an easy decision making this the runner-up for my favourite film of the decade. After seeing this on the opening weekend in January in 2015, this was my favourite film of the decade for the longest time…and with good reason. The drama marks the directorial feature debut of Damien Chazelle, and is based on the short film of the same name which he also directed, focusing on Andrew Neiman, a young drummer who aspires to become ‘one of the greats’, keenly listening to Buddy Rich for inspiration. Whilst attending the Shaffer Conservatory, one of the most prestigious musical schools in America, he hopes to catch the attention of the infamous conductor Terence Fletcher, who is looking for a drum alternate for the Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band. While he impresses Fletcher during an ‘audition’ during a class band session, Andrew soon comes to learn that Fletcher is a master manipulator who abuses and berates members of the band, hoping to find someone to mould that could go on to become ‘one of the greats’. Whiplash looks at the abuse of power as well as the theme of obsession that’s captured in a way that’s cranked with tension and completely captivated me in an unfamiliar setting of jazz bands and competitions. Taking the angle of the student and mentor and placing it as an abusive thriller, mostly focusing on the obsession and ambition that Andrew and Fletcher have within themselves. Andrew seeks to gain approval of his talent by Fletcher and we witness the literal blood, sweat and tears he puts into practice in order to achieve this pinnacle view of perfection as he eats and sleeps the music and in a few seconds during the next class session, he’s mentally (and sometimes physically) ripped apart by Fletcher. Terence Fletcher on the other hand is using extreme measures of teaching as he, at one point admittedly states, that he pushes his students to a breaking point in the hopes that one could be moulded into his own Charlie Parker. The film is wonderfully directed from Damien Chazelle, particularly in how he brings the viewer into particularly scenes, such as the opening with Andrew playing the drums as he moves closely and slowly into the action of the scene, and then there’s the battle to ‘earn the part’ between Andrew, Tanner and Connolly for the core spot in the band. The cinematography by Sharone Meir is great here, and the editing by Tom Cross is absolutely wonderfully done, especially in the final ten-fifteen minutes of the film which are absolutely outstanding. The performances from the two leads as well are also fantastic. Miles Teller’s performance as Andrew Neiman is still arguably his best to date as his alienated figure who seems to shun socialising and anything that can tie him and his ambition down. There’s one particular scene involving Andrew having dinner with his father and relatives in which we see how Andrew feels isolated, undervalued of his achievements in comparison to others, and Teller is great in this scene with his calm yet hostile delivery of his lines in that scene. As great as Teller is, there’s no question that J.K Simmons is a force of nature here as Terence Fletcher, as his performance deservedly earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that year. As stated in my review upon the films release, imagine if Vern Schillinger did not get placed in prison but instead decided to mentor future musicians in the world of world and maintained his verbal and emotionally manipulative skillset, you’d have Terence Fletcher. J.K Simmons is so riveting to watch that you hang on his every word and with every facial tick or twitch of his hand, you wonder just when is he going to go off on a student, especially Andrew. What’s more, you understand his methodology of pushing the students to their potential, though you can also look at his methods of being too extreme and some people would even call him an egomaniac. Chazelle may have gone on to direct La La Land and First Man, but for me Whiplash is still his best film.
FAVOURITE SCENE: After being humiliated on stage, Andrew returns and cuts off Fletcher’s introduction to the next piece, playing ‘Caravan’ and cueing in the band himself. The anxiety you feel watching this scene, hoping, praying that Andrew doesn’t make a mistake for Fletcher to use as verbal ammunition. But the way the scene plays out, from the directing, the lighting, to the bloody editing, it’s one of my favourite film endings this decade.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” – Terence Fletcher
DID YOU KNOW: The film is one of the lowest grossing movies ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.