Derek Cianfrance said that he wanted his multi-generational epic The Place Beyond The Pines to be just that: epic. Epic like The Godfather was what he said. Maybe his quote is the reason I couldn’t get that word out of my head the entire time I was watching the film, but there really isn’t just anything to describe it other than epic.
The acting: Epic. The story: Epic. The visuals: Epic. The spookiest soundtrack ever: Epic. This review setting the record for number of times ‘epic’ is written in a paragraph: not so epic.
It’s hard to give a proper plot summary for something like this, as the story is so sprawling yet every minute is so vital, but I’ll do my best for you. Ryan Gosling plays Luke, motorcycle stunt driver with bleached blonde hair and enough ink on his body to print the Bible about 20 times. He finds out that he is the father of a baby boy, so he quits the circus and stays to provide for his son. Unfortunately, his son’s mother has another man in her life, and doesn’t always want Luke around. In order to give his son the things his father never gave him, Luke starts robbing banks and quickly becomes a wanted man. When one robbery goes wrong, a rookie cop hunts him down, and the two become forever intertwined in ways neither imagined when they woke up that morning, with the effects of that day still prevalent 15 years later when their sons meet.
Let’s start with the acting. I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie that is so flawlessly acted by everyone in the cast. I’m talking from top to bottom, even the smallest non-speaking roles are perfect. When something is that great across the board, usually the credit should go to the director, and Cianfrance deserves his fair share here, but he also had such a perfect cast to work with here, he would’ve had to try to screw it up.
Gosling kills it as Luke. Some have begun to complain that he’s a one-trick pony, always playing the strong, stoic type. What I say is, if a pony can do perfect backflips, why would you ever want it to do anything else? Gosling is in rare form here, and my only complaint is that he isn’t in the film for its entire run-time.
I could write a paragraph about everyone in the cast, but this review would end up far too long if I tried. All you need to know is everyone is excellent.
The visuals and cinematography are on level all their own. Sean Bobbitt captures everything in a unique, and hauntingly beautiful way. I’ve never seen car chases have such a sense of eerie calm while still being as frantic as expected. Part of the experience is the creepy soundtrack that plays over it, but the scenes where the characters are out in the pines create a feeling I can’t even find the words to describe. Just know it’s something you want to be sure to feel.
The story, well not to overuse epic, but it’s as epic as they come. Some have dubbed it as over-ambitious. I agree that it is one of the most ambitious films I’ve ever seen, but get rid of that over right now, as Cianfrance completely hits his mark here. Everything is perfect about it, down to the little details that you’ll probably notice more of after a second viewing. In fact, I can’t wait to see it a third and a fourth time, as the film is so sharp and well-thought out that there are probably new things I’ll be picking up through years of multiple viewings.
While I doubt it’ll be nominated for much, this is the sort of film that should be considered for best picture. It is as epic as anything you’ll see this year, the acting is so good from top to bottom it’s almost unbelievable, and the story, well the story speaks for itself. You’ll be hard-pressed to watch something more powerful, and because of that, The Place Beyond The Pines is my front-runner for the best film of the year.