Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown12
The Place Beyond The Pines Review
Movie Review: The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)
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).
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.
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.
Before 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 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.
However, 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.
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.