This is it. This is where the search for the finest film of 2014 comes to its conclusion. And even though I still need to check out a few more films that were released before the new year, I highly doubt that watching them is going to change anything because after having sat through what is undoubtedly a goosebumps-inducing cinematic experience that seamlessly blends the adrenaline rush of sports drama, intensity of war film, passion of romance, commitment of documentary, spectacle of big-budget action & spine-chilling thrills of a quality horror into one, I can say with absolute certainty that Whiplash is my Movie of the Year.
Whiplash tells the story of Andrew Neiman; a 19-year-old Jazz drummer who aspires to become one of the great drummers like Buddy Rich. A freshman at the most prestigious music conservatory in the United States, his chance to prove his worth arrives when he successfully auditions for Terence Fletcher; the academy’s most fearsome instructor & is selected as his wing’s new drum alternate. However, Neiman soon finds out that Fletcher isn’t notorious for nothing when he receives the grilling of his life from the instructor for not following his tempo. Determined to impress him, Neiman then completely dedicates himself to his craft but Fletcher aims to push him beyond what he’s capable of.
Fabulously written & meticulously directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is a work of blazing originality that takes over the screen like an invading horde & from its opening moments to the spectacular finale, Chazelle’s kinetic direction in what is his sophomore effort controls the film’s charged atmosphere with sublime precision while also keeping the rest of its elements perfectly in rhythm with each other. Screenplay also deserves a mention for the scripted story is relentlessly focused on its lead character who’s present in every single scene. And then there’s revelatory performances from Miles Teller & J.K. Simmons which elevates it to a whole new level and about which I’ll talk in a moment.
Coming to the technical aspects, the entire picture is a work of astounding production & every aspect only contributes in further enriching the overall experience. Sets are refined to smallest of details, Cinematography makes near-perfect use of colour palettes, warm hues & lighting because of which each frame looks remarkably crisp, Editing is definitely one of its strongest aspects considering that its vicious pacing makes its 106 minutes of runtime fly by while the switch from one angle to another during a performance adds even more vibrance to those moments. And finally we have its jazz-heavy soundtrack by Justin Hurwitz which keeps its premise on the verge of explosion at all times.
And now, the performances. From start to finish, the entire story of Whiplash is focused on a promising young drummer who wants to be one of the greats & is mentored by an instructor who considers pushing his students beyond what’s expected of them to be an absolute necessity. This is easily Teller’s best performance to date for the actor gives his all to completely reinvent himself in the physically demanding role of Andrew Neiman; the young & talented jazz drummer aspiring for greatness & whose worth is tested by a teacher who’ll stop at nothing to realise a student’s potential. Plus, he’s finely supported by Paul Reiser who plays Andrew’s father & Melissa Benoist who’s in as his girlfriend.
There’s no denying that Miles Teller is a revelation in the given role of Andrew Neiman here but there’s also no denying that for the most part, Teller is effortlessly overshadowed by J.K. Simmons who ends up delivering the most impressive, memorable & dominating performance we’ve ever seen from the veteran actor. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher; a ruthless, unforgiving conductor infamous for abusing & harassing those students who deviate from his tempo, and is also a master at manipulating emotions. Due to Simmons’ intimidating screen presence & the extent to which his character is taken, it’s very easy to see Fletcher as a villain but in my opinion, there’s a lot to admire about him.
On an overall scale, Whiplash is a powerhouse of fierce direction, smart writing, charged atmosphere, dynamic photography, cut-throat editing, strong performances & dazzling score that promises an emotionally intense cinematic experience & effortlessly delivers it. Passionate filmmaking at its brutal best, Whiplash is my definite pick for Best Film of 2014 for it is truly electric, explosive, visceral, spectacular, feverish, muscular, volatile, provocative, intoxicant, dangerous, glorious, incredible, sharp, creative, vicious, kinetic, crazy, extraordinary, soulful, stellar, tremendous, triumphant, exhilarating, electrifying, thrilling, inspiring, transfixing, astounding, jaw-dropping, heartbreaking, intimidating, challenging, gripping, daring, entertaining, satisfying & rewarding in every manner. A heavy dose of adrenaline shot, Whiplash comes one hundred percent recommended.