Who would have thought closing a movie with a 9 minute Jazz drum solo could be so electrifying, so unbearably tense and so triumphantly exciting?
Whiplash (2014, dir. Damien Chazelle) immerses the viewer into the gruelling world of Jazz, following Andrew Neyman’s (Miles Teller) quest to become the greatest Jazz drummer of all time. However, when he lands a seat on the prestigious studio band he is brought into conflict with the infamously sadistic Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) who pushes the young drummer to extremes.
Whiplash takes the idea of the born musical prodigy and flips it on its head, feeling instead more like a sports movie without the sport, but with plenty of blood, sweat and (single) tears. Andrew has to really work to earn his place on the band; Chazelle’s shooting of practice sequences feels like Rocky-esque training montages complete with plunging a bleeding fist into a bucket of ice.
The viewer is kept constantly on the edge of his seat with so many unexpected twists and turns. Although J.K. Simmons has been highly praised for his uncompromisingly acerbic performance as Fletcher (he received the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and is nominated in the same category for both the BAFTAs and Oscars), it is Miles Teller’s subtle yet determined portrayal of Andrew that draws the viewer onto his side. Not exactly likeable as a character, we grow to identify with Andrew through his astonishing talent and unwavering dedication to the drums. Performing all the music himself, Teller proves himself a force to be reckoned with and, though he may miss out in the coming awards season, he can only go from strength to strength after this blistering performance.
One of the most exciting films I have seen in the cinema for years, Whiplash is a percussive explosion of unrelenting tension and the most amazing music. See it, see it now.