You’ll go into Whiplash thinking, ‘How good can a film about jazz drumming be?’ – and the answer is pretty damn phenomenal.Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s has created an absolute gem of a film that surpasses all expectations. Expertly written and wonderfully acted, Whiplash is a cinematic breath of fresh air. J.K Simmons rightfully won plaudits and awards galore (including a Bafta and Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) for his turn as Terence Fletcher, the tough-as-nails jazz band conductor with sky high standards. Meanwhile Miles Teller gives a career making turn as Andrew Neiman, a young drummer pushed to the limit by Fletcher’s demands.
Chazelle expands on his own short film (produced to secure the financing) and creates a film with energy and heart. Every choice made by Chazelle works, from the casting, to the music and to the editing. He has injected the tale with an honest sense of emotion. You can see Teller’s Neiman develop as the film progresses. He goes from meek student to blistering percussionist, picking-up many of Fletcher’s egotistical traits along the way. It’s Simmons’ turn as the driven conductor that makes the film such a delight. He delivers Chazelle’s dialogue with panache, finding the humour and the drama within his line deliveries. The character has shades of R.E Ermey’s drill instructor from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket – he’s a man preparing those under him for the challenges of what lies ahead. Paul Reiser makes the most of a small role as Neiman’s father, a man who wants the best for his son and whose caring compassion is the polar opposite of Fletcher’s unfiltered bellicosity.
Made for a paltry $3 million, Whiplash was produced by Jason Blum’s Blum House production company, a shingle known mainly for low budget horror movies. However, Chazelle’s film never feels cheap – Sharone Meir’s cinematography and Tom Cross’s editing gives the film a strong visual sheen that makes it feel like a film with much more scope – a real wonder considering the majority of the film consists of people in rooms talking and playing music.
Whiplash is a powerful piece of cinema with a tremendous script and splendid performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Damien Chazelle has created a film that surpasses expectations, giving us a film that feels as refreshing as it is captivating. Highly recommended.
J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle offer a great commentary and the 42 minute long Timekeepers looks at the musical world of the film, a deleted scene offers insight into Simmons’ Terence Fletcher but the big draw here is the 18 minute short film that helped get the film made. A great selection of extras for a great movie.