A young budding jazz drummer extraordinaire (Miles Teller) is taken under the wing of a renowned music instructor (J.K. Simmons) known especially for his unconventional, and at times shocking methods.
You may be thinking “well I’m not a massive jazz or drums fan, so this might not be my cup of tea” if you are, stop now. I think even if you were physically allergic to the sound of a snare you would still enjoy this movie. It draws a lot of comparisons with boxing movies, but like only the very best of those do, it manages to be a film about a certain sport/instrument/anything without being a film about a certain sport/instrument/anything. Whiplash is centrally about the abusive relationship between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, it’s about what you are willing to do in order to achieve self-esteem, it’s about multiple father son relationships, it’s about people’s reactions to the unconventional, it’s about dreams. And also jazz drumming.
This is one of those rare films (only a few a year) that doesn’t put a foot wrong. Every department excels here in Whiplash. At the heart of the movie we have the two main performances, Miles Teller is absolutely sensational in the main role as partially naïve but ultimately passionate and sometimes ruthless promising young drummer. You know, in a way I feel bad for J.K. Simmons, because in nearly any other film, a performance like his would utterly steal the show, but Miles Teller is up to the task and the two play off each other brilliantly.
What I loved about the way Whiplash dealt with the tutor’s methods was that it completely lets you decide whether or not you agree with them, just because the protagonist believes in them doesn’t mean the viewer has to. Rarely have I seen this done so magnificently. It shows you that it’s awful, and you begin to hate it, but then you think well maybe that’s the point, maybe you have to be put out of your comfort zone to achieve that kind of greatness. And you don’t even have to be a music fan, or a sports fan, or anything really, but I think everyone strives to be the best at something, and so this will speak to all people on some level.
There aren’t many films this immersive, and while that is down to the gripping story the fabulous music, and of course the performances. We must not forget the cinematography. Because it is stunning. Every shot means something, and even if you tried to look away I don’t think you would be able to, I certainly couldn’t.
Overall, it’s going to take something truly special to top this for 2015, and it’s only January. This year has started off with an almighty bang, and not just from Whiplash. I think we’re in for a good one guys, hold onto your butts.