“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job,” said Terrence Fletcher.
Before Whiplash, I never quite witnessed a drummer become a real main attraction of a music flick. Moreover, it’s a quest of a drummer to a jazz band that goes so hard it’s intense and bloodstained. And more, it’s a vigorous work crafted by a 29-year-old savant, Damien Chazelle after some previous short work that stole indie-beholders’ attention. It sounds loud, jazzy, and never been easy.
Whiplash revolves around an unorthodox mentor-apprentice relationship between a young, ambitious drummer, Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller) and a music professor/conductor, Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, in a seriously terrific performance). Fletcher discovers Andrew’s potential and puts him in his top-class school jazz ensemble. What initially becomes an opportunity for Andrew slowly turns into ambition to seal his part in band; moreover, Fletcher’s insults and antagonized behavior has infuriated him even more as he begins to lose the limit of his sanity.
It’s an ambition-driven character study. It’s an unusual zero to hero drama. It’s an unpredictable mentor-apprentice drama. It’s emotionless but emotion-driver. It’s simply THE BEST DRUM MOVIE I ever seen.
Speaking of drum, Whiplash treats the narrative flows like playing a real drum. Though, it feels like a slow-burn drama, it quickly gets into the rhythm and keep it quick and constant once it gets the groove. In some moments, it gets so intense and loud just like a drummer plays a roll to highlight some part. The best part is, Whiplash knows how to escalate the momentum and save the exhilarating climax in the end—something worth the wait.
Kudos is addressed to Damien Chazelle for his compact script and editing (though you might feel there’s some delay of sound). Yet, real kudos is given to J.K. Simmons with his real mean, antagonizing performance. He delivers a master-class performance with each of his sarcastic lines shouted from his foul mouth and his surprisingly muscular build (for a music professor? That’s a real devotion to performances). His character always stands in a border between a motivating mentor and a merciless psychopath—yet, we never know in which side he really is. Simmons’ counterpart, Teller delivers a resonant performance as an apprentice—perhaps, he’s being overshadowed by Simmons all the time, but still he shows a real acting. I liked him in The Spectacular Now, but here, he even surpasses his spectacular persona shown previously.
With spectacular directing and “menacing” performance, Whiplash becomes one of my favorite movies in 2014. It’s an undeniable exhilaration even for people who do not enjoy jazz—you simply cannot miss the thrill of this new cinematic experience. All in all, it’s an exhilarating combination of good drama, exceptional acting, groundbreaking cinematography, and… DRUM.
VERDICT: Whiplash is loud, jazzy, never been easy, and simply the BEST DRUM MOVIE I ever seen. With good drama, exceptional acting, groundbreaking cinematography, and thrilling music performance, it’s a new cinematic experience.
Drama, Music Written & Directed by: Damien Chazelle based on short film titled “Whiplash” Starred by: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons Running Time: 107 mins Rated R for strong language including some sexual references