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review: the place beyond the pines

Place Beyond the Pines

If Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a film together hadn’t already peaked my interest, the fact that it was directed by Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance and scored by Faith No More front man Mike Patton sealed the deal for me. I was not disappointed.

Nothing short of ambitious, and seemingly quite different, Cianfrance’s follow up to his debut, Blue Valentine, sets the bar high and achieves.  Told in chronological order, The Place Beyond the Pines is essentially three stories, or three chapters of a saga, intertwined together to form the quintessential American crime drama.  An intense plot with superb character performances by an exceptional cast forces you on an emotional journey with unexpected twists.

The story begins with Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a daredevil motorcycle rider that tours with a carnival. Upon discovering he’s a father, he settles down and tries to provide for Romina (Eva Mendes) and their son.  It’s his boss, reclusive mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), that gives him the idea to rob banks and use his motorcycling skills to escape, ultimately leading Luke to his confrontation with policeman Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). The twists and turns in the plot are riveting, the impact all the more stronger for being unexpected. No Spoiler Alert here.

Dealing with the Sins of the Father, The Place Beyond the Pines is more than just a family drama about daddy-issues. From relationships formed through circumstance and those linked by blood, the film delves into the consequences of choices made and the butterfly effect it causes, tackling everything from police corruption and fatherhood to morality and responsibility.

On paper the cast itself is enough to make the film a winner, but their actual performances are what make the film. Props must of course go to Bradley Cooper, while Ray Liotta as a crooked cop was a stand out. Not to mention Eva Mendes and Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn (It’s customary to acknowledge any homegrown talent that shines, right?).

However, while it’s easy to be taken in by Ryan Gosling’s undeniably good looks- the man can sure act (see: Lars and the Real Girl). Gosling has this remarkable ability to perfectly balance his tough, bad ass, imma-kick-you-in-the-face persona with a soft, sensitive and almost vulnerable side, that makes you want to cradle him to your chest and coo in his ear. It’s that perfect equilibrium between the two that make him the highlight of the movie for me, and a large part of the reason I admire him as an actor.

The outstanding performances on screen are enhanced by breathtaking cinematography from Sean Bobbitt who takes the audience into a lush world with saturated colours, earthy tones and gorgeous landscapes that you want to lose yourself in and contrasts it with a dark grittiness.

Mike Patton’s subtle yet driven score, with a soundtrack featuring Bruce Springsteen, Bon Iver and himself, set the mood for the film and complement the tone perfectly, enriching the overall experience that was The Place Beyond the Pines.

While the story itself is nothing short of epic and required time to be properly told, 2 hours and 20 minutes proved a little arduous towards the end. Although despite being a little drawn on, setting aside crime and politics The Place Beyond the Pines weaves a tale of tragedy, love, remorse and above all, family.

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