Movie Title: The Place Beyond the Pines
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Date Released: March 29th, 2013
Date Seen: April 14th, 2013
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
This movie is told in a manner that you will either love or hate. The film begins following Luke (Ryan Gosling), a rough-and-tough motorcycle stunt rider, who finds out he now has a son with a former fling, Romina (Eva Mendes). He turns to bank robbery to try and provide for his family. We follow Luke until he has a run in with Avery (Bradley Cooper), a young cop just trying to do his best in a sea of corruption. This means that after about the first third of the movie, there is no more of Ryan Gosling’s character. The events that transpired between Avery and Luke affect Avery and he’s never really the same. We watch him deal with what happens, and then dealing with his own problems within the police department. There is also a final “act” of the movie – 15 years later, with Avery and Luke’s sons now 16 years old and meeting each other. Needless to say, shit happens.
This movie had a good thing going for it before it even started playing. The director, Derek Cianfrance, also directed “Blue Valentine”. Ryan Gosling was in that movie as well, and I think the fact that they’ve worked together before worked out really well. I loved Ryan Gosling’s character, and Gosling did a great job playing this guy trying to care for his “family” but not knowing what to do. He also does a great job of seemingly showing you how someone would react in the bank robbery situation, when just little things go wrong. Bradley Coopers character left a lasting impression on me, for all the things he had to deal with, from the incident with Luke to the corruption in the police department. The character was extremely well written – so I’m glad that Bradley Cooper was chosen for this role. Two other characters stick out in my mind. Ray Liotta as a fellow police officer, Deluca, was terrifying. He just has a creepy feeling around him and so a scene that involves him was made all the more freaky. Ben Mendelsohn plays Robin, the man who introduces Luke to bank robbing. He’s a slightly crazy eccentric man, but he really does care about Luke. Nearly any scene with him in it was a great one, including the scene in the final act of the movie with Jason (Dane DeHaan).
Speaking of the final act of the movie, that occurs 15 years later, I found it to be unnecessary. I still liked the third act, but I think the movie would have been complete without it at all. I honestly do not think it added anything significant to the movie. It was still an interesting act, and I enjoyed it, but it could have easily been left out. Also, even with the third act still in the movie, I believe there was a better “ending” spot than what was chosen. If you’re curious (and have seen the movie) as to what part I’m referring too, see part 2 of my review. I think my ending choice would have left a lot of questions that the viewer could choose what happened. Instead, the third act chooses and ending and goes down that path. It’s fine, I just like being able to think for myself what would have happened.
The movie succeeded most in having some edge of your seat, heart pumping moments. It built up tension like no other movie I can even think of. It didn’t just happen once or twice, either, it happened a number of times. You get so involved in the characters lives that you really feel for them and what is happening to them. There is one scene, involving Deluca (Ray Liotta) and Avery where I thought I was going to throw up I was so nervous. The scene focuses on Avery the whole time – driving in his car in silence, but he is clearly freaking out. It causes the viewer to start thinking exactly what Avery is thinking in this situation – What’s going to happen? Is he going to get hurt? Oh god where are they going (as they turn down the scariest back-road ever)? It was a great scene in every single aspect.
I suggest you go see this movie, if you like drama movies with a bit of blood pumping tension. There’s some action, fights, but the movie is much more a character study on how people react to certain situations, the consequences of such actions and the lasting effects those leave on people.
Also when you go in – the first scene is an extremely long one-continuous shot. It’s really cool, if you notice it.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review
The first scene was a very cool scene, mostly for the fact that it was a crazy long continuous shot. It shows Luke getting ready for the show in his trailer, walking all the way across the carnival, entering the stunt ring, getting on his bike, putting on his helmet, driving into the metal ball, showing another driver revving up his bike and then going into the ball (which is where they switched Ryan Gosling to a stunt driver, in the couple of seconds he wasn’t in frame), the last driver going into the ball, then starting up their engines and driving around the big metal ball. It’s about a 3-4 minute scene before there is any cut. Even the change of Ryan Gosling to a stunt driver had to happen so fast it made it seem impossible. It was a very well thought out sequence.
In the first act, with Luke being the main focus – I found the bank robberies to be the most interesting. I liked watching him psych himself up and get ready for the robbery. Then, when he went into the bank, but not completely up to the counter yet. All the way to when he got in the van, with Robin driving away excited that they pulled this off, and Luke is throwing up in the back of the van and heaving. But then of course, going up to the last robbery, where he gets sloppy, forgets his face mask and glasses, didn’t check out the bank beforehand (and thus would have seen the barricades), didn’t thoroughly check out his bike, etc. He freaks out like, I’d imagine, any criminal would. I’m glad Luke went out swinging, rather than killing himself, which I thought for a moment he was going to do.
The second act focused around Avery dealing with having killed Luke and the police corruption ring. The scene with Deluca pulling Avery over then having him follow him into the deep, dark woods, made me want to throw up I was getting so nervous. I was glad that Avery ended up outing everyone rather than becoming just another corrupt cop, although he did still have a bunch of issues himself.
As I said above, I found the third act to be unnecessary. I actually think it’s what hindered the movie from being completely incredible – but, I still liked elements of the third act a lot. The movie could have kept the third act and just ended with the scene where AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason go smoke together in that tunnel looking thing, with them walking out, and just starting to get to know each other. That would have been a good place to stop – and leave you to think what is going to become of their friendship – what will happen when Avery finds out AJ is friends with Jason? Will he even find out or is he too busy? I would have liked to have those questions to think about myself. Instead, the movie picked a path and went down it. Certain things from this path I liked, other things I did not. I loved the fact that Avery had the picture of Ro, Luke, and baby Jason in his wallet through all the years. Another thing that I really liked was the fact that AJ and Avery did not reveal Jason as the person who robbed/kidnapped them. If you listen, the newscaster who was talking about Avery’s election said that it was an “unknown assailant”. Both AJ and Avery clearly knew who did it, but chose to not say anything (probably more due to Avery telling AJ to not say anything, but you know). Another great scene that came out of the third act was Jason going to meet Robin to find out information about his father. Robin was still the odd, eccentric man he ever was, but you can tell despite what happened with Luke, he misses the crap out of him. That scene got me emotional, for some unknown reason.
The character of AJ also completely annoyed the crap out of me. His character was one thing holding the movie back. I don’t think it was the actors fault, I just don’t think the character was anywhere near as well thought out as the rest of them. Why? It makes zero sense why Avery, the respectable cop, and Jennifer (Rose Byrne), who always seemed like a fantastic mom, would produce this child. Yes, I could see having grown up in a fairly rich home, with a dad in politics, you might rebel. Alright, that part makes sense. But his accent? That doesn’t. The fact that he wanted to go live with his dad? Again, doesn’t make sense, considering we’ve never really seen the dad be there for his son – especially considering when he was a baby Avery wouldn’t even look at him after Luke’s death. Maybe he wanted to get away from his mom, who was over protective and wouldn’t let him party that much? Ok, possible – but then his mom, in a normal world, would have warned the dad that “hey, AJ likes to sneak out, better keep an eye on him.” It just wasn’t a good fit, from what we knew about the parents.
The third act and the ridiculous AJ character are what is bringing this movie down from a better score. Otherwise, this movie is phenomenal. Your heart will be racing, you will be engaged during the whole movie, and you will care about this characters and you will be left with a lot to think about.