Of all the movies I watched from 2014, Whiplash was one of the few that truly captured what it is that I love about movies. It”s bold, electric, and brutally intense in a way that’s simultaneously shocking and enthralling. This movie had me by the throat from the very first scene, and thanks to the breathtaking directing, music, and performances, it kept me enthralled all the way until the very end of the credits.
Whiplash stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, a young drummer and jazz-student who has recently enrolled in the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school. Neiman is dedicated to a fault, and upon an almost chance encounter with one of Shaffer’s most successful instructors, becomes hellbent on becoming the best drummer humanly possible.
In terms of plot, Whiplash is brilliantly straightforward. There’s nothing you need to know beyond what I described above, as this is a story that lives and breathes off of the conflicted and often abusive relationship between student and teacher. The two lead performers are perfectly cast, and create a dynamic that is both hard to watch and impossible to look away from.
J.K. Simmons, whose performance as Neiman’s instructor Terrence Fletcher, has received nearly universal acclaim for his work here and deserves every single word of it. Simmons is almost unrecognizable as Fletcher, and he so completely embraces the darkness and brutality of his character that he’s just as easy to hate as he is to analyze.
It’s a testament to the casting that both lead actors are this impressive, as it would’ve been easy to cast someone who would fail to compare to such a gripping performance from Simmons. But Teller doesn’t just match Simmon’s intensity, there are moments where he nearly surpasses it.
Before Whiplash, I had never seen Teller in anything, but he so completely knocks it out of the park here that I cannot wait to see where his career will go next. He brings an empathetic edge to a character who is borderline unlikable at times, and plays off of Simmon’s powerful screen presence like an absolute pro.
Everything about the story oozes with presentation, and whether you’re a talented musician or not, Whiplash makes its premise, which can be simply described as an insatiable need for perfection, frighteningly relatable.
The lengths that both Neiman and Fletcher go to achieve their ideal perfection is shocking, and only gets progressively more brutal as the film moves forward. However, there’s a crushing humanity in their respective performances that plays a huge part in making them such beautifully complex characters.
This is a movie that entrusts all of its success to its two leads, but they thankfully don’t have to carry all the weight on their own. Director Damian Chazelle, who also wrote the script, has such a powerful grasp of scene structure and direction that he makes even the most trivial of moments memorable.
Even the prolonged drum sessions, which make up a large portion of the film’s 106 minute running time, become as exciting and involving as any fight scene I’ve ever seen. Chazelle’s directing is phenomenal, and he had me on the edge of my seat just as much as the actual conflict did.
I’ve been trying to find something about Whiplash to critique, but I can’t seem to come up with anything beyond that it won’t be for everyone. Fletcher is a hard character to watch, and at times I felt like his brutality was pushed a little too far, but I think that’s part of the point, to make the audience want to take a step back.
This is not an easy movie to watch, as it often becomes an uncomfortable experience, but it’s such a perfectly crafted movie that I was hopelessly invested in every second. It also doesn’t hurt that the movie is paced very well, and gives the viewers just enough time to catch their breath before diving back into the breakneck intensity of Neiman and Fletcher’s training sessions.
Whiplash also delivers one of the single most exciting climaxes of any movie I saw from 2014. It ramps up the tension all the way until the end, and creates an uproariously satisfying finale that left me breathless. It also knew exactly when to end, and rolled the credits on such a perfectly ambiguous and electrifying moment that I spent the rest of the day just trying to soak it all in.
I loved everything about this movie. I went into it with hardly any information or expectations, and walked out of it entirely blown away. The phenomenal performances, the outstanding directing, and every beautifully staged line of dialogue was perfectly orchestrated and delivered, making Whiplash one of my favorite movies from 2014.