Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is the story of a talented young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman who enrols at a competitive music school where his aspirations of greatness are coached by an infamously tough musical instructor.
After being recruited by Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons, to participate in his very high standard Shaffer conservatory orchestra band, Andrew, played by Miles Teller, begins to dedicate everything in his life to achieving his goal by following in the footsteps of legendary jazz drummers like Buddy Rich.
The film works on a number of levels, chief of which is that Whiplash is an exhilaratingly thrilling and engrossing cinematic ride.
Watching Whiplash is a physical experience in and of itself. The way each and every facet of the film comes together such as the acting, the pacing and the acid-tongue razor sharp dialogue, is like riding a well-oiled roller coast with enough thrills, spills, twists and turns to make it a genuinely great film, one fully deserving of its commercial and critical acclaim.
Once you’re into Whiplash, Chazelle scarcely gives the audience time to catch its breath with rare, brief moments for reflection and this, like the instruments in the films itself, gives the entire film lightening quick rhythm.
The plot, like its lead characters, is focused, finely tuned and free of distraction with no room for compromise. Rarely does a film have such slickness in its narrative.
Whiplash has several key themes running throughout with arguably the most pertinent of which being that of what it means to be great and how our modern culture has stifled true greatness from shining through the mediocrity.
Those who may have been discouraged from watching Whiplash because they think it is about drumming can rejoice in the fact that the film isn’t really about drumming or music at all, it is mostly about this theme of achieving greatness.
It’s this level of astute sharpness that raises Whiplash above other films whose central focus is music which are so often bogged down in convention and clichés.
It has so far has been showered by an array of accolades with no sign of relenting and none of these accolades is more deserving than that of J.K. Simmons Oscar nominated performance.
The man is electric in his role as the fiery motivated music teacher who will stop at nothing to help his students realise their potential.
He is someone who believes that the worst two words in the English language are “good job” and demonstrates this ethos by relentlessly unleashing a verbal and often physical tirade of abuse upon his students to constantly challenge them to be the best they possibly can be.
Miles Teller also plays his part very well, encompassing an emotional, vulnerable and highly inspired student, a character which contrasts well with Fletcher’s irate unyielding wrath.
With five Oscar nominations under its belt including one for Best Picture,Whiplash is a film that won’t be easily forgotten and is one that almost shrieks out for a repeat viewing to have its less obvious traits fully appreciated.