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Reckoning

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PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, THE

SYNOPSIS:
When motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) learns he has a baby son after a year-old fling with Romina (Eva Mendez), he leaves the travelling circus to stay and try to provide for his son, and Romina - who is now living with her new man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali). After a chance encounter with mechanic and ex-bank robber Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), Luke goes along with Robin's plans for a series of heists to raise some money for 'fatherhood'. After one fateful robbery, Luke is pursued by lone cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) with deadly results. In the aftermath, police corruption and Avery's sense of guilt make for a dramatic cocktail which changes lives and infects the next generation.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
After overcoming my irritation with both Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) who constantly walk and talk with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths and after putting up with the film's uneasy first half, I found myself engaged and intrigued. It's not an easy film to access (nor to review) since its three acts are not formulaic. The story progresses unexpectedly, with characters in the centre of the frame dropping out and new ones taking their place as the ramifications of actions early on become the next act.

It's not easy to review because the revelations are crucial to the filmmakers' intentions and spoiling that would be unfair - both to the film and to readers.

But setting aside the details of the story (some of which are a little shaky), the writers pursue the trail of consequences from a set of random decisions made by characters who are then pushed along the path they have chosen - one way or another. There is a moral imperative in the story's outcome, but along the way we are caught up in the thriller web.

Ryan Gosling, all beefed up and extensively illustrated with tats, is remarkable and memorable as Luke, full of contradictions, such as his 180 degree lifestyle turnaround when discovering he is a father. Eva Mendez provides dramatic firepower as Romina, the young woman who gave birth to Luke's son but after his immediate post-fling departure has made a life for herself with Kofi (Mahershala Ali, excellent).

Bradley Cooper has the challenging role of Avery Cross, the young lawyer newly recruited into the police force under the eyes of his father (Harris Yulin), a retired judge. It is his path we follow after it crosses with Luke's, and it is his moral compass that is tested; the compass is never certain, never clean.

Australians in the cast are both vivid: Mendelsohn is effective as the offbeat, edgy, slightly manic Robin, a catalyst for the decision that triggers the entire dramatic construct; Rose Byrne's much smaller role is nonetheless memorable.

Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (of Blue Valentine fame) has a couple of cinematic signatures in use; the first is the tracking camera following a character (notably in the opening scenes with Luke, and later with others). The second is his use of extreme close ups. The former tends to be overdone, but close ups are the most powerful tools of cinema and they force their emotional messages into our minds.

With the final act, as we see the longer term impact of earlier actions, the film attains something akin to epic status, stirring notions of classic Greek tragedy before scaling back and completing itself as a contemporary morality tale.

Review by Louise Keller:
Mike Patton's grumbling song The Weight of Consequences eloquently reflects the hard-hitting theme of this provocative and gripping film in which three troubled roads are travelled. Taking a sharp U-turn at the one hour mark and a right-hand turn in the final reel, the narrative weaves its way through the angst-ridden lives of two key characters and their families, raising issues of loyalty, honesty and belonging. Director Derek Cianfrance's intimate and intense Blue Valentine depicted the highs and lows of a relationship, The Place Beyond the Pines delves into similar territory but expands on the number of characters involved. Powerful, charismatic performances by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper set the emotional platform, sending us on a helter-skelter ride, not dissimilar to the speed-induced daredevil bike ride that Gosling, as Luke the stunt rider enjoys.

The film's lengthy cinematic one-shot first scene is a stunner, when we meet Gosling with rippling abs, tats and blond hair as he ventures from his trailer through a crowd of circus enthusiasts to the steel mesh globe in which he is about to manically push his motorbike to death-defying speeds. Gosling is bewitching as he discards the mantle of a wanderer to try to connect with the baby son he did not know he had and reignite last year's affair with Romina (Eva Mendez). There's tangible fire between Gosling and Mendez, countered by the presence of decency in the shape of Mahershala Ali as Kofi, the new man in Romina's life. Ben Mendelsohn is terrific as Robin the outcast mechanic who persuades Luke to use his unique skill set on his bike - to rob banks. The bike chase sequences are thrilling.

As Avery, the outwardly heroic, inwardly cowardly policeman, Bradley Cooper brings great complexity, taking counsel from his ambitious, retired judge father (Harris Yulin). All decisions Avery takes are cowardly and it is with great subtlety that Rose Byrne as his wife Jennifer, alerts us to the fact she can see right through him. Byrne does this cleverly in nuance by her tone. Police corruption and the lengths to which Avery and his colleagues will go to protect themselves and each other leave a nasty taste. Ray Liotta seems to have sewn up the licence on corrupt cops. Bruce Greenwood is also effective as the slimy department head.

It is in the final act that the weight of the consequences is shown in full. Fifteen years have passed and the grown up sons of Luke and Avery are thrown together. Emory Cohen plays unlikeable well, as AJ, Avery's troubled teen, while Dane DeHaan is a knockout as Luke's boy Jason. DeHaan, his delicately featured, expressive face and young Leonardo diCaprio-esque appeal, is a face to watch. Redemption comes when you least expect it and the exposition closes its arc in true circular fashion, the flame-coloured sky reflecting the tarnished nature of characters and events passed. Such is the power of Cianfrance's film that the 140 minutes running time simply flies.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, THE (MA15+)
(US, 2012)

CAST: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendez, Craig Van Hook, Olga Merediz, Anthony Pizza, Mahershala Ali, Rev. John Facci, Ben Mendelsohn, Harris Yulin, Ray Liotta, Olga Merediz

PRODUCER: Lynette Howell, Sidney Kimmel, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof

DIRECTOR: Derek Cianfrance

SCRIPT: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sean Bobbitt

EDITOR: Jim Helton, Ron Patane

MUSIC: Mike Patton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Inbal Weinberg

RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 9, 2013







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