Flick Reviews: ‘Whiplash’ (2014)

It’s only a matter of days before 2015 ends but something just came to me telling me to re-watch one of 2014’s greatest films.  With nothing to do other than stare at the walls for hours, I just decided to go watch ‘WHIPLASH’ and yet again, do a proper review for it.

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Though it could seemingly look like another one of your average motivational films, Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’ tries to steer clear from the conventions to bring us something new and well…brutally intense? “Brutally intense” are not usually the words you would hear for a film involving a drummer and his mentor but nonetheless, this is exactly the perfect phrase that would fit the description for this film. If you seek to be motivated, this could be an inappropriate film for you. Damien Chazelle turns what we know from every motivational film upside down and flips it to create a visceral experience; one that would leave a burning mark. As we follow Andrew (Teller) turn his dreams of becoming a young great drummer a reality, we witness the pain and terror he has to endure when a renowned instructor discovers him and stops at nothing to realize his true potential. Exploring one’s anxiety and emotional distress has never felt so real; connecting its audience to the fullest, it helps us realize the protagonist’s struggle and shares with us the insufferable cruelty he faces. Adding to that feeling of experiencing intolerable pressure is the tight editing which allows us to sense the frustrations that our protagonist is undergoing.

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Whiplash’s fast-cuts is able to craft anxiousness and lets you be a part of the film; the person who in the room who is feeling all sweaty and dirty on the inside. The tension is effective especially when we’re enclosed in the same room Andrew is sitting in; it is as if we are also fearful of what’s about to happen if he messes up. This fabricates moments of true intensity; occurring whenever J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher enters the room. His presence is of deviousness and the film presents him as a cruel being; one sadistic instructor who thinks he’s doing a great job whenever he pushes his students to the limit, only to find out that he is the bringer of hell in their lives. It is through this where we find out that in reality and in this film, there are limits to fully bringing out one’s potential. Rendering Whiplash as an accurate if not dramatic representation of a student’s painful confrontation with his endeavor to success.

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By remaining almost speechless and giving that look of hurtful competitiveness, Miles Teller brings one hell of a performance. Andrew’s aggressive drumming emits an unsettling result; one that involves us feeling sorry for him after everything he underwent. These scenes are what I consider the best as they turn him out to be convincing; almost as if he’s reaching out but at the same time he still wants to persevere and walk the roads of triumph. Not to mention that all this drumming brings out his true emotions although they are somewhat confusing since Teller subtly releases a plethora of feelings. Showcased best in the show-stopping finale that demands us to get a grip on our seats, the depiction of Andrew’s drumming is portrayed in a thunderous fashion. Loud, aggressive, relentless are the words you’ll be looking for once you witness the intensified climax that impresses us furthermore with the gripping long-takes that focuses on the musician and his instrument. Whiplash tries to experiment with the music it uses; particularly playing a huge part in the film not only because it centers on a drummer but something else entirely interesting.

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If one skims past the loud aspects of the film, you’ll find out that the music our protagonist creates is rather progressive. In the movie’s opening minutes, it is beautiful and pleasing to the ears but once he drowns himself more and more into this student-mentor relationship, the once soulful rhythm becomes lost and what’s left are ear-ringing noise that could be hard to take for the ears. This certain amount of detail allows the film to be creative with its use of music; it alludes to Andrew’s feelings and at the same time echoes his emotional distress. The two bring out memorably riveting sequences; their hateful relationship Teller and Simmons share is rather wonderful in terms of creating onscreen moments. As we figure out that the man he once looked up to is the also the one who will change the course of his life, we are able to relate to him in a way that resonates. This allows me to say that Fletcher not only affected Andrew but also the audience with his vile aura. If there’s a single thing that could be said as excellent regarding him is that he is brilliantly brought-to-life by J.K. Simmons’ ferocious acting that could never be denied of being commendable. Granted, his dirty insults are just utmost humiliating but Simmons’ Fletcher is almost like a real-life mentor that wants you to be great. Contradictory enough, the words of embarrassment he spits are like slaps to face; inhumane and degrading. Letting us put ourselves in Andrew’s dire situation and leaves us begging to ask whether we should obey this mentor or not. Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is a film unlike any other that came before it in its genre, the filmmaking he brought was laden in aggression; his direction is as impressive as the banging of drums even if the brilliant narrative contradicts the ugly yet honest depiction of one’s restraint of achieving his/her goals in life.

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Bringing in a distinct realistic approach to its chosen subject matter that focuses on one’s frustrated emotions, Whiplash becomes realistically painful and genuinely jarring.

4.5/5 stars.

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