Whiplash ★★★★½

It's been a couple of days since I screened Whiplash at Edmonton Film Festival, and for the life of me I can't find anything wrong with it. It is as gripping, raw, unique, and emotional as anything I've seen in recent past. The film is as exhilarating as it relentless; and it refuses to withdraw itself for a moment. The plot itself is fairly straightforward: a young man has an unparalleled desire to become a world class drummer, and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. The screenplay is perfectly sound; from scene to scene, the story is so tightly knit that the characters are free to take over as they feel fit. The performances, from both Teller and Simmons, are haunting. They are equally as extraordinary--Miles Teller as the socially inept, insanely talented Andrew who is, both intrinsically and extrinsically, driven to the point of madness; and J.K. Simmons as the frighteningly abusive, soul-hungry puppeteer that pushes his students beyond measure. What's even more impressive than these characterizations is the relationship dynamic between them. The outrageously tense, emotionally charged scenes between Teller and Simmons are electrifying, and when the music begins the audience becomes part of the circuit; the chemistry pumps blood to the film's bleeding hands (haha). I think both performances are award noteworthy, but I'm guessing only Simmons will receive recognition from the Academy.

The film's honest intention is to depict the extent to which a man must be willing to work to achieve perfection, and the sacrifices (his own humanity, for instance) he is willing to make along the way. It's mesmerizing to see what director Damien Chazelle is able to achieve with so few sets, characters or subplots. Whiplash may appear basic in it's structure, but it unapologetically explodes with energy at will; I'm still buzzing. And the music, WOW--it is the motivating spark to the narrative, and has the capability to command the audience into a spastic trance. All things considered, I couldn't have left the theatre in a better mood. Whiplash is the most relentlessly compelling film of 2014 (that I've seen), thus far.

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