It’s not often I find myself, as the credits roll, wondering why I never saw a film when it was released. Whiplash (2014) falls harder under that category than anything I have seen before. A relentless torment of emotion and jazz, this is a film that will light you up from head to toe and make you want to run out of whatever room you’re viewing it in and pursue your passions.
Whiplash is the story of a music student, played by Miles Teller, who catches the eye of a renowned teacher (J.K Simmons) with a reputation for his brutal and anxiety-inducing teaching methods.
The story follows the relationship between the two as the student, Andrew, puts his everything into his drumming and his teacher Fletcher pushes him to the limits, quite literally drawing blood and sweat more than once. Not a film for the faint-hearted, I found myself wondering at times how Andrew could pick up him drumsticks, let alone play each set with blistered and bleeding hands.
It’s this drive and intensity that fuels the plot of the film, pulling the audience behind the protagonist as he desperately tries to make something of himself. It’s a raw emotional power that is handled without any elegance or filter. Rarely letting up from start to finish, if you’re not wired by the end of Whiplash then I have no idea what you’re made of.
Everything in Whiplash is built to serve the almighty message of Andrew’s drive for musical greatness, and this is perhaps the films only weakness. Not much of a weakness, all told. Whiplash is original, unrelenting and intense from start to finish.
The Girl on the Train surprised me. Without any prior knowledge, save for a few poorly edited trailers, I expected to sit through a mediocre thriller and what I actually got was a deeply tragic character-driven story. The Girl on the Train is full of broken people, each with their own damaged past and mistakes and problems and emotions, and it knows how to show you. It does sometimes push too hard, putting too much effort into making you feel a certain way or showing you unnecessary backstory that, while heavily emotional and beautifully shot, doesn’t add much except more emotional weight to a story that weighed a ton already.
The main cast in this film deliver good performances for the most part, and Emily Blunt is fantastic in the role of Rachel, the titular girl on the train. A truly broken person, wallowing in her own self-destruction and sorrow, Emily Blunt makes Rachel pitiful a times, despicable at others and there are moments when I genuinely felt uncomfortable watching her. The focus on developing Rachel’s character, however, leaves very little time for the rest of the cast and some of the other characters have a tendency to be a bit two-dimensional.
The Girl on the Train leaps about with its story, jumping back and forth through time and between characters, for the most part fluidly. You rarely feel lost but the pacing does get a little chaotic from time to time even though this is likely done to mirror the rickety state of Rachel’s mind as she stumbles toward a conclusion about what’s really going on. And that is the crux of this film, as it is a film with a twist and, while it does make clear efforts to lead you toward a conclusion alongside Rachel in the second half of the film, you may find yourself putting the pieces together well before the finale. I was left feeling as though it could have gotten there a little smoother, and without some of the unnecessary melodrama and poetic moments, but it does get there in the end.
I enjoyed The Girl on the Train and, while it has a strong tendency to get caught up in itself, becoming pretentious or distracted with unnecessary flashbacks and plot development, it does a good job of showing how bleak and tragic life can be, and I walked out of the cinema emotionally affected.