Whiplash Review

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J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller during the movie Whiplash.

Emily Weaver

Whiplash: Directed by Damien Chazelle; Starring J.K. Simmons, and Miles Teller. 106 minutes, rated R.

Whiplash is a brilliant film, so it’s no surprise that it won 3 Academy Awards, including best actor in a supporting role, (J.K. Simmons) best achievement in sound mixing, and best achievement in film editing. It has sharp acting, genius shot composition, abrupt yet believable plot twists, and one of the most climactic endings ever. However, it’s debatably most astonishing feature is the movie’s overall theme: we all aspire to be great.

The story begins with 19-year old Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a talented-yet-unappreciated drummer enrolled in Shaffer, one of New York’s finest music schools. It is not until Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) hears him practicing one morning, and decides to take Andrew into the highest-level jazz band in the school: studio band.

Terence Fletcher is a no-nonsense teacher who seems casual and fun-loving one moment, but can turn violent and abusive the next. Because of Studio band, Andrew quickly becomes distant, and borderline sociopathic. He throws himself into music, practicing all hours of the day, until his fingers blister and bleed. Andrew is determined to be the core drummer in Fletcher’s studio band and will do whatever it takes to be the best.

Both Teller and Simmons are remarkable actors. Simmons masters the threatening persona of his character, who is determined to find the next great drummer, the next Charlie Parker. Throughout the movie, Charlie Parker’s story is repeated: a famous saxophone player who fumbled while performing. Instead of letting him down easy, bandleader Jo Jones throws a cymbal at his head. As Charlie is laughed off the stage, he vows to come back next year better than ever. And he does.

“There are no two words in the english language more harmful than ‘good job'” says Fletcher when telling this story to Andrew. Fletcher is determined to find the next Charlie Parker, and Andrew longs to be the next great drummer; it’s a surprise the two don’t get along better. As the viewer, it’s fascinating to see how Andrew changes over time, and to see how he both is the opposite and the same as Fletcher.

The cinematography in Whiplash is purposefully, creative, and jarring. Shots are sequenced at a rapid fire pace, and add effectiveness to the plot. The camera angles and composition give someone watching the impression they’re in the room with the characters, witnessing the whole thing firsthand.

Whiplash, in a word, is bold. It’s an extraordinary movie that resonates with the viewer at every moment, whether it’s cringing watching Andrew awkwardly ask his crush out, or a dropping jaw at some of the most vulgar insults. Whiplash, through acting and cinematic techniques, takes the viewer on a journey, from start to finish. Watching the movie will make you feel like you’re there for every second, and leave you wondering: how far would you go to be great?

Movie Grade: A