Whiplash bubbles and boils with more energy and more intensity than many other films could ever hope to achieve: it is a stunning, extraordinary piece of cinema, one that should be watched and enjoyed again and again.
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is an astounding film, managing to take something many people may consider boring – jazz – and turn it into an absorbing, riveting masterpiece that has been nominated for five Academy Awards (including Picture and Adapted Screenplay). Chazelle’s film hurtles onto the screen at breakneck pace, peaking and peaking, leaving each climactic moment in the wake of the next as it races on with breath-taking intensity.
The film follows two characters obsessed with greatness: Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a young, aspiring jazz drummer who dreams of being ‘one of the greats’ and, in an effort to achieve this, joins the band of Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher is equally obsessed, leading his band with an aggressive, almost sadistic perfectionism, trying to push all of them (and Neiman in particular) to be the best.
The acting in Whiplash is its most immediately outstanding aspect. Teller has cemented his position as one of the many talented, up-coming young actors with his portrayal of Andrew Neiman, layering arrogance, innocence and a small dash of delusion to create a character who is, at different points in the film, amusing, infuriating, and sad. The star of the show, however, is J.K. Simmons. Seemingly out of nowhere, Simmons has produced a devastating performance, utterly dominating every scene he is in as he screams and swears and throws himself around in a whirl of brilliance, and thoroughly earning his Academy Award nomination, which he looks set to win.
As good as Teller and Simmons are, their performances alone are not what makes Whiplash so good. For that, credit has to go to Chazelle, whose script and direction have made a streamlined and excellent film, full of movement and energy in every scene. In particular, Chazelle performs the difficult task of really conveying the depth and urgency of his character’s passion for jazz, drawing you in and making you care every bit as much as they do about things that you wouldn’t usually consider at all, like tempo.
The fact that such a small film, and one focused on such a niche topic, has been nominated for Best Picture is testament enough to its quality. Whiplash bubbles and boils with more energy and more intensity than many other films could ever hope to achieve: it is a stunning, extraordinary piece of cinema, one that should be watched and enjoyed again and again.
Whiplash (2015), directed by Damien Chazelle, is distributed in the UK by Sony Pictures Classics, Certificate 15.