It’s a film about truth.
Derek Cianfrance’s ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is a tremendously engaging opus-like film dedicated to the truth, its consequences and in a balanced way, it ponders the merits of revealing the truth and at times, concealing it for the greater good.
Luke Glanton (Gosling - ‘Drive’ and ‘Crazy Stupid Love’) is a nothing to lose motorcycle stunt driver who, on discovering he has a child to a former lover, uses his unique skills to rob banks to provide his former girlfriend, Romina (Mendes - ‘Training Day’), with money she needs to raise their son.
Luke appears to be without any real sense of identity or place.
The film’s opening sequence shows Glanton prepare for his nightly performance at a fun fair.
Limited to the back of Glanton’s bleached blonde locks we join him as he weaves his way through a crowded fair ground to a tent full of people; awaiting Luke is two other motorcycle stunt drivers. All three men mount their motorcycles before entering a large metal spherical cage. Inside the cage, each driver speeds round and round but remarkably they do not crash; it’s a beautiful and enthralling scene to say the least.
The three drivers inside the metal cage could be seen to be a precursor of what’s to come.
Cianfrance opts to tell the story in three acts.
The first is about Glanton’s desperate desire for a better life; the second tells the story of what happens when Glanton crosses paths with ambitious rookie police officer Avery Cross (Cooper - ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘The Hangover’) and the third and final act looks at what happens when Glanton’s and Cross’ children meet 15 years later.
It’s because of the sheer speed and claustrophobic feel of the three riders’ scene that the audience you feel a collision is inevitable; the same can be said for the film’s three acts.
It’s because of actions of Glanton and Cross’s treatment of the truth that you feel that the lives of the two men are destined to be linked.
At just under two and a half hours long, Cianfrance does extremely well to keep us interested and despite a tremendous sense of foreboding ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is a hugely rewarding and often visually stunning affair.
The opening hour of this movie is outstanding and exemplary film-making but it’s in the film’s third and final act where it starts to stumble and flounder.
Ironically, despite the contrivance and reliance on coincidence of the third act, it boasts some the film’s most impressive and gripping performances in both Dane DeHaan (‘Lawless’) and Mendes.
DeHaan plays Jason, Luke Glanton’s son. Jason appears physically weak but due to some fine acting, DeHaan convinces us that Jason has the strength needed to deal with the truth of his past when it confronts him.
Cooper is fantastic and along with his excellent performance in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ he is fast becoming one of the most talented actors in Hollywood.
‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ and Sean Bobbitt (‘Shame’ and ‘Hunger’) must both be applauded for the film’s cinematography.
There are several scenes throughout the film where all we see is a close up of the face of one of the characters.
Bobbitt and Cianfrance take a risk by holding the frame and focusing on the face for so long but each scene is uniquely stupefying.
The movie’s score and soundtrack are elegantly striking in the sense that they carry a degree of subtlety but heighten the atmosphere and mood. Kudos to composer, Mike Patton - some of the music from the film will have cinema goers reaching for SoundHound the world over.
It’s a truthful pulling apart and piecing together of morality, the human conscience and asks the question, when you’ve all the facts, what would you do?
‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.
VERDICT: 4/5 - ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is certainly Cianfrance’s best film to date and had it not been for it feeling a little contrived towards the end it would most certainly have been lauded as one of the year’s best and most beautiful films.