Second View is an alternate perspective on a film that has already been reviewed. The second reviewer however has an opposing viewpoint on whether they liked or hated the film. If you would like to read the first review click here.
Director Derek Cianfrance is most well-known for his work in the documentary film genre. He is a man who enjoys telling audiences stories about real people and real life situations. Recently Cianfrance has delved into the world of fictional narrative storytelling, in which he uses real locations and people to help him and his actors convey stories that feel as real as those found in his documentaries. Cianfrance was first able to do this with Blue Valentine in 2010 in which he and his cast made us feel as though we were watching the real life drama of a failed marriage come crashing down around us as well as reliving the honeymoon years with this young couple. In The Place Beyond the Pines, Cianfrance, along with an amazing cast, is once again able to transport his audience into a world of make-believe that feels as real and familiar to us as our own lives.
The opening scene of the film introduces us to Ryan Gosling’s character, Luke, through a long tracking shot in which the audience watches Gosling preparing for an unknown act by flipping a butterfly knife continuously and eventually walking through the grounds of a carnival to reveal to us his profession: the leader of the cage of death motorcycle group. At the very onset, Cianfrance immerses us into a world of danger and a culture focused on living in the moment instead of living for tomorrow. About twenty minutes after being introduced to Luke, Cianfrance shocks us by introducing both us and Luke to Jason, Luke’s one year old bastard son that Eva Mendes’s character, Romina, has been raising since Luke and his carnival last left their town of Schenectady. Immediately, Luke is confronted with a life defining choice of continuing to live a life of danger where he satisfies his own needs of feeling alive or stepping up to the plate and caring for his young son. Luke chooses the latter and for the first third of the film we watch as he battles his desire to live on the edge and make ends meet to give his son a better life than he had. Luke’s conflicting desires lead him to a life of crime and ultimately introduces us to Bradley Cooper’s character, Avery. Avery is a rookie cop who is introduced in a scene that captures the essence of a beat cop receiving a call to capture an armed criminal fleeing on a motorcycle. Luke and Avery meet in an adrenaline fueled standoff where each character makes a quick second decision that alters the course of their lives and those of their family. After the standoff, Cianfrance shifts the focus of the film onto Bradley Cooper’s character and we soon learn that he is a man that is motivated by advancing his career and only caring about how his actions affect him. Following his love for documentary style film, Cianfrance chronicles the life of Avery after meeting Luke going into detail about how an officer might deal with being involved in a standoff and how other police officers not only view him but also attempt to “reimburse” his hard work by implementing some good old fashioned street justice. By the end of the film, Cianfrance has taken us through the impact of one generation’s decisions regarding a life of crime not only upon Luke and Avery but also upon their children. The latter half of the film beautifully captures the theme of the sins of the father being paid for by their son. Avery’s son A.J. played by Emory Cohen and Luke’s son played by Dane DeHaan, are both forced to deal with the actions and motivations of their fathers during the challenging years of their adolescence. Both boys grapple with how the identity of their father’s impacts the shaping of their own identity.
Technically, The Place Beyond the Pines is a beautiful creation that melds the aspect of true storytelling with cinematography, music and performance. Cianfrance brings together the talent of Sean Bobbit whose work in films such as Shame and Hunger showed us the true gritty side of human depravity and who creates heart pounding and suspenseful scenes in The Place Beyond the Pines. The music was written by Mike Patton who helped score films like Black Hawk Down and Crank and who in the film continues to cause our hearts to melt and our adrenaline to rush. Lastly, Cianfrance puts together a great cast of both actors and stuntmen who together deliver performances that suspend the feeling of fantasy that is common place in films and deliver us into a world of reality where there is no CGI and the actors deliver their lines in a way that makes you feel as though that is their life.
Overall, The Place Beyond the Pines is a great film whose only downfall is using Ryan Gosling’s character so well that it overshadows the later part of the film.
FINAL TAKE: 10/11
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Director: Derek Cianfrance
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta
Run time: 140 min