Whiplash review: A must-see offering from Damien Chazelle

Posted on 19 January 2015
By George Heron
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It’s really hard to know where to start when you’ve just experienced one of the best films you’ve ever seen. Whiplash is not an easy journey but one we must all take.

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is mad about drumming. He has a poster of his idol Buddy Rich on his wall as a permanent reminder of what he aspires to be. At the Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the USA, he has the potential to achieve his goal. Tutor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) looks to harness Neiman’s undoubted ability using some controversial learning methods.

The above description intentionally understates the intense power that runs through this film. The classic cliche of the irresistable force meeting the immovable object applies: the raw talent and will to succeed of Neiman clashes violently with the impossibly high standards of tempestuous Fletcher. Don’t rush, don’t drag. You’d better be on HIS time or else!

Any musician or live performer watching this masterpiece will get the exact butterflies they would get when going on stage when they see Andy about to perform for his sadistic teacher. To see him persevere under such conditions is inspiring.

Miles Teller puts his all into bringing the Andrew Neiman character to full life. You could never say it was effortless: he bleeds for this film for Chrissakes! There are many close-ups of him having to apply plasters to his hands due to his extensive practicing and I’m convinced they’re real.

Juxtaposing his ability is his social awkwardness and hubris that is largely down to the immaturity of adolescence. He can kick butt on the drums but has trouble interacting in a civilized way with people, whether that’s with family or the opposite sex. You’d think you were watching real life unfold as you see Neiman go from one social calamity to the next.

Simmons is fearsome as the teacher who will do whatever it takes to get his studio band to be as perfect as they can be. He’d make the drill sergeants in war movies like Full Metal Jacket piss themselves. The performance brings a lot of humour with it too. He gives Peter Capaldi (The Thick Of It and In The Loop) a run for his money in the putdown stakes.

The camera immerses you fully in all the musical performances. Up close to all the snares, the tom-toms, the cymbals, the brass, the ivories. You’ll want to listen to more jazz after watching this. Maybe you’ll be inspired to learn an instrument. Stop reading now and check the listings for the next showing in your area.