Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

15, 2013, Directed by Derek Cianfrance  
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan

Director Derek Cianfrance broke onto the feature film scene in 2010 with Blue Valentine, his endearingly-performed drama starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, an actor currently so at the top of his game, his directors snatch him up for another (Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn as guilty as Cianfrance, following his role in Only God Forgives, out later this year.) But whereas his former was a taut profile of a marriage breakdown, The Place Beyond the Pines is very much a decade-spanning generational epic. Screen time is shared between Gosling's “Handsome” Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stunt driver who turns to bank robbing upon learning that old flame Romina (Eva Mendes) has had his baby and Bradley Cooper, fresh from his Oscar nomination and continuing to add credibility to his Hangover-incited career scalds. Here, he stars as Avery Cross, a cop who learns that the ladder of law is a corrupt one when he crosses paths with Glanton.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Place Beyond the Pines has been billed as a Ryan Gosling film. He remains the film’s heart, the camera tracking his character’s charisma with ease. Numerous tattoos littered over his body, some hidden by a baggy Metallica vest, you just know Gosling is channelling the nameless driver that granted him cult status in 2011. The earlier scenes which place Glanton as prime focus are the standout, as we see his genuine amoration for Mendes or bank-robbing mentorship from fellow greaser Robin (an ever welcome Ben Mendelsohn.) His story is a bold one, conveyed by a performance that would be easy to label with career-best. He loiters in the brain long after, with Luke Glanton joining a long line of misunderstood movie characters. Not to detract from Cooper’s performance; the fact you even marginally empathise with his character as the film continues is a feat in itself. All the cast prove their worth, with deserved mention towards Ray Liotta, who nails unnerving once again, and a strangely underused Rose Byrne - doing lots with a little - as Avery’s wife. 

At times, it may be a struggle to decipher just what message Cianfrance is trying to deliver, but it's glaringly obvious: our future generation will have to deal with the consequences of our elders someday in the future. This message is conveyed no better in Pines’ final coda, where the worlds of Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Emory Cohen’s teenagers collide in a way you will probably see coming a mile off – one of the film’s minor downfalls.

Pines may not add any flourishes to the crime thriller genre, nor anything fresh in the way of structural storytelling, but through Derek Cianfrance’s filmmaking skill, he has created an immensely cool, watchable yet unnerving offering that could vie as one of the year’s best thus far.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a place worth seeking out.