Review The Place Beyond The Pines, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling Drive jacket, Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond The Pines Review, Father and Son, Derek Cianfranc

Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown


The Place Beyond The Pines Review


Movie Review: The Place Beyond The Pines (2013) place-beyond-the-pines-film-poster. movie review world

Rating: (15)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio

Cast: Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose byrne, Dane DeHaan, Bruce Greenwood, Emory Cohen

Plot: Luke (Ryan Gosling) a motorcycle stunt performer, whose life is suddenly changed, turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover Romina (Eva Mendes) and newborn son Jason. This new lifestyle puts him on a collision course with the local police department, in particular the young and ambitious rookie cop, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).


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Independent film maker Derek Cianfrance returns with his eagerly awaited follow up to 2010’s critically acclaimed and hugely admired, contemporary, romantic drama, Blue Valentine, also starring Ryan Gosling. This time he turns his attentions to a narrative both wider in scope and theme, in, The Place Beyond The Pines.

The films somewhat bizarre and initially puzzling title is derived and adapted from the loose translation of the Mohawk name for the city Schenectady ‘Beyond The Pine Plains’, in New York, which of course is the location for our film.

ryan-gosling-and-eva-mendes-stare into each others eyes at a fairground in the-place-beyond-the-pines

The Place Beyond The Pines is an ambitious and complex character drama, spanning a turbulent 17 year period in the lives of two men whose destinies become intertwined in a heated moment of panic. It is a film that tackles many themes including the central father and son dynamic which presented here, is as much heartbreaking as it is endearing. The film deals with difficult issues including the condition of attachment disorder as well as consequence of actions and the subsequent knock on effect they have on others.

The film starts with an opening sequence full of style and pace as we follow stunt motorcycle rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) in one stunning four minute single tracking shot, as he walks through the bright lights of the carnival to the roaring crowd who await him. Climbing onto his motorcycle he pushes forward into a steel cage to perform his daring routine to the packed out crowd screaming his name. This is a beautifully realised opening and a stunning introduction to our anti hero Luke.
ryan gosling as luke counting money in the film the place-beyond-the-pinesBefore finishing up one night Luke stumbles into former lover Romina (Eva Mendes), who drops a mammoth bombshell, stating that their single night of passion a year ago resulted in the birth of a son. Stunned by the news, Luke quits the stunt game and uses his skill-set to pull a series of bank robberies to provide for his child.

Following almost an hour of masterful crime-drama storytelling, Cianfrance subdues into a slower paced middle chapter where we are introduced to law-school graduate turned police officer, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The law enforcer is quickly on our anti hero’s tail and this is where the two protagonists’s cross paths.

Derek Cianfrance once again proves himself to be a distinctive and masterful actor’s director, uniting with his cast to create compelling characters and career-best performances

The third act is in part, a redemption instalment to the story and looks at the profound impact and legacy that the two father’s confrontation has had on the lives of their offspring in the present day.

Derek Cianfrance once again proves himself to be a distinctive and masterful actor’s director, uniting with his cast to create compelling characters and career-best performances. He strikes gold again with Ryan Gosling who confirms his place as an actor with considerable range, oozing both charisma and an alluring intensity in equal measure. A character that’s enigmatic screen presence is reminiscent of Goslings performance in Nicolas Winding Refn Drive film. However, gone is the unmistakable Ryan Gosling Drive Jacket, as now it’s replaced by a body of prominent yet fascinating self-made tattoos, adding a further air of mystery to the character.

bradley cooper as avery in the place beyond the pines. movie review worldBradley Cooper
as the central player, unlike the enigmatic Luke (Gosling), the Silver Linings Playbook star uses silence to present his character’s complexity and internal moral conflict and dilemma to an astounding effect. Two great films in a row, it’s a travesty he will next be gracing our cinemas screens with the woefully exhausted franchise picture The Hangover 3, as he certainly has an indisputable skill and range as a character actor.

Eva Mendes also impresses in a testing, warts-and-all performance as the dejected lover/mother Romina. In a film so emotionally opaque, Mendes character pulls everything together over the three acts and is undoubtedly the beating heart of the film.

Ben Mendelsohn performance as grubby mechanic Robin is also note worthy as is young hopeful Dane DeHaan who we meet in the film final act.

Each chapter is served with its own distinctive look and feel and is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Hunger, Shame). The visual elegance coupled with the haunting and unsettling main theme from the soundtrack adds to the films mystery and ever simmering angst.
Dane DeHaan-the-place-beyond-the-pines. movie review worldHowever, with all its thematic complexities and profound character performance’s The Place Beyond The Pines is far from perfect, stumbling on several levels. As the film plays structurally to three very distinct acts, each with its own protagonist, the flow and coherence between each is where the problems lie. Just as the first dramatic act gains momentum, the breaks are firmly slammed on to an almost halt, as we enter act two. And there lies the problem, unfortunately, nothing here holds together long enough to be a consistently involving film. For every great cinematic moment, there are two steps backwards. From sudden changes of pace, dramatic tension, jolts in narrative, and the introduction of new lead characters is all far from seamless, which ultimately causes a jarring effect which derails the flow and coherence of the film.

Having to introduce and establish new lead characters just as the film gains any momentum is ultimately a post editing issue that should have been resolved. As the plot becomes heavier the characters become less profound. What starts strong slowly loses its grip as the plot and themes unbalance the characters driving them to its conclusion. Its over-packed and exhausting and its refusal to conclude should have been tightened up in post production. However, Cianfrance somehow manages to pull it altogether in a lacklustre, yet endearing conclusion.

The Place Beyond The Pines Review Allan Brown


Summary: The Place Beyond The Pines is a bold and ambitious film that deals with complex themes and characters beautifully. There are no weak links in the performances and each is more than Oscar worthy. However, its sharp and sudden change in flow cause the film to feel disjointed. Tightening up in the editing room could have seen this film go from an intriguing yet overlong and busy drama to the masterpiece it deserved to be.


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Despite my 9-5 being consumed by the daily duties of an Electrician, Movie Review World serves as a platform for me to share my thoughts, explorations and reflections on one of my biggest passions, film.

12 Responses to The Place Beyond The Pines Review

  1. Sarah Igoe says:

    “Intriguing” – indeed! Whilst I understand your complaints regarding the flow of the three chapters, I do not think they were as disjointed as you suggest. I LOVED the Hitchockian killing off of the lead protagonist one hour in, having read or known little of the plot prior entry I did not expect this. I think the initial switch of leading male from Gosling to Cooper and the demand that audience shift empathy moving forwards was quite risky. Initially, I wasn’t sure, but I soon became caught up in the morality tale that ensued. With hindsight, for the continuity-cravers out there, I think a graphic match or some key prop might have been used to mark the shift – like an old penny or something. Passed on or held by each character who was leading the story at that moment in time… but then perhaps that is what Cianfrance was attempting to do with the photograph?

    Casting was tip top though as was costume design! I was in awe of the cinematography particularly the long shots. Likewise I thought the soundtrack was succinct. Outstanding though – the opening. I similarly applaud the 4 minute tracking shot, I thought it had shades of Gus Van Sant with “Elephant”? In terms of gaze that is. If I had any complaints it would be the casting of Jason who I just could not see as Gosling’s spawn. I thought he was limp and lacking in charisma, unlike Gosling. AJ on the other hand.. very believable.

    A great review as ever Al, but a harsh rating. I’d give 4! 😉

    • Allan Brown says:

      The killing of the lead character in the first 45 mins was a bold and exciting move and I applauded Cianfrances bravery for it . It is a formula that has worked well in the past for directors and to an extent I agree that it also works here. However, It wasn’t so much the switch in lead character that I found jarring, but more the immediate change in pace, that slowed to an almost crawl, and never fully regained momentum.

      I enjoyed Jason’s character and agree he was a little limp and yes he lacked the charisma of his father Luke (Gosling)…..but maybe that was the point?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Cianfrance and think the depth of characters he creates along with the way he shoots is truly unmatched in contemporary film. He seems to have a knack for capturing the real essence of people and plays them out with all they’re flaws beautifully and believably. I just feel he missed the mark slightly here, at least on a few notes.
      Thanks for reading as always 🙂

  2. Richard Smith says:

    This is the best review I’ve read of the film so far. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I was a massive fan of the film. I would have given it 5 stars if it weren’t for, as you say, the structure and pacing issues. But I love a good people drama and the actors and direction make the film. Goslings opening 1st act is the strongest act of the film by far, and it did lack momentum thereafter.
    The turning point for me when the pacing just dropped (which admittedly was my favourite scene in the movie) was Ray Liottas bad cop leading Bradley out into the woods to an uncertain fate. The build up was really tense, the music, the approaching dusk and growing darkness suggested the film was going into darker territory. Sadly, it was an anti climax as Bradley speeds off in a panic.
    Great review mate. Keep em’ comin.

    • Allan Brown says:

      Yes I to agree with you on the Cooper, Liotta scene. I do feel his character wasn’t fully utilized, perhaps most of his performance is on the cutting room floor due to running time constraints, who knows. Thanks for reading Richard, I appreciate your comments and views.

  3. “For every great cinematic moment, there are two steps backwards” – EXACTLY!!! So frustrating. Great review!

  4. Dan O. says:

    Good review Allan. It’s not even that I felt like this movie should have been cut down, something just was not working when it came to that final story. Everybody was great, it’s just that the script they were working with wasn’t amazing.

    • Allan Brown says:

      I guess Cianfrance’s style of film-making isn’t for everyone. I do feel however, his strongest asset as a writer/director is in his translation of characters, that always seem to offer a depth of realism and intrigue. I look forward to his next project.

  5. Betty says:

    Agree the disjointed flow of the narrative was the films weak point but I still did enjoy it!

    • Allan Brown says:

      Me too. I think the pacing and running time was its two weakest factors. It was a very crowded narrative with to many sub-plots going on. Still, I really did enjoy it and look forward to seeing it again.

  6. Ambitious indeed. I would rather watch a film that swings for the fences like this than most of the crap at the theatres so far this year. I would agree that the change in acts is very jarring. Sort of like being dropped off a cliff.

    • Allan Brown says:

      I couldn’t have put it better myself. Very much like being dropped off a cliff but agreed a very ambitious, multi layered and thought provoking film. I wonder if the change in acts will feel as jarring on a rewatch. The film has the potential to run alot smoother on a second viewing I think now I am aware of its breaks in tempo, tone and narrative.

      Thanks for reading.

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