The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgIt starts with a shot of a guy displaying his impressive skill with a butterfly knife. As the tracking shot continues, it follows him as he walks through a carnival fairground. We discover he’s on his way to a show where he proceeds to mount a motorcycle and ride it into an enclosed spherical cage made of steel. He’s joined by two additional men on bikes and the resulting display is greeted with applause from the small audience. The guy is Luke Glanton and he’s a stuntman. Haphazardly covered in tattoos that almost look like doodles, he is a man of few words. It’s a brilliant start because it establishes so much about this man simply from visual clues. After that deceptively simple opening we are introduced to a former acquaintance, Romina (Eva Mendes) and her boyfriend Kofi (Mahershala Ali). The two are taking care of her infant son. This cluster of individuals is a fascinating subject for a picture. Ah but that’s merely the beginning.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a stunning multi-generational saga that has two other stories in addition to the one that makes up the film’s first third. This dramatic triptych continues on to detail the life of policeman Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) and two teens (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen). The latter two struggling to keep their head above the tricky waters of high school. All the aforementioned actors pull off incredible performances worthy of mention. Newcomer Cohen is like the re-incarnation of Brad Renfro. He’s surprisingly good given I’ve never even heard of him. Who these various people are and how their lives fit together is something best discovered by experiencing the film. Director Derek Cianfrance‘s script which he co-wrote with Ben Coccio and Darius Marder, does a masterful job at managing multiple parts. Despite an ever-shifting narrative, each person is a fully formed human being with a separate focus. Even a role as seemingly one-dimensional as Cross’ wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) has a distinct purpose that we can identify with in the one major scene she has. Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn further contribute in key supporting parts that significantly alter the story. It’s only April, but this should rank high amongst the ensemble casts of 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious tale you’ll remember long after the credits have rolled. Cianfrance masterfully presents a carefully balanced epic of guilt, sin and redemption amongst fathers and sons. But he also provides car chases, guns and cop corruption. It’s got it all in a magnificently sweeping chronicle. The script’s handling of good vs. evil isn’t too subtle.  However the morally questionable motives of these people often belie honorable intentions. That’s what gives these characters a depth that makes them compelling. At times it’s a bit overwhelming to process all the themes that are being addressed. If Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine could be called an elaborate composition then The Place Beyond the Pines must be considered a grand opus of breathtaking proportions. If this is a logical progression, I can’t wait to see what the director does for an encore.

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40 Responses to “The Place Beyond the Pines”

  1. I’m so happy to see a positive review on this film. I have to admit I’m pretty impressed with Goslings performances to date and to this point I can see him doing no wrong. The trailers looked pretty impressive so I’ve got my hopes up for this. Glad to see you liked it. 🙂

    • It’s getting stellar reviews. Check out the write-ups in The Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the New York Post. I suspect if this had been released at the end of last year, we’d be talking Academy Awards. The March release date is so perplexing to me.

  2. I’m really looking forward to seeing this film as well as Only God Forgives. Nice review as always.

    • I have high expectations for that as well. It’s smart of Gosling to re-team with directors with whom he had success. The Place Beyond the Pines with Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) and Only God Forgives with Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive).

  3. GaryLee828 Says:

    This has not made it to my city yet, so I am not going to read this review until after I see it; I just wanted to check your rating and I see you liked it a great deal which makes me want to see it more. If you haven’t seen the new trailer for “Only God Forgives” I just posted it on my blog. Hurry up and see Evil Dead and write a review!! 🙂

    • Ha! I just saw Evil Dead last night. I’ll have a review up before Tuesday morning.

      Incidentally I am always careful not to reveal any spoilers that might detract from one’s enjoyment of the film. With that said, I avoid reviews before I’ve seen a movie too, so I completely understand.

  4. Wow. I’d heard of this movie, but I didn’t know of the all star cast. Didn’t know it would be this great either. Nice review.

  5. Good review Mark. I’ll admit that it kept me glued just about the whole time, but after awhile, it felt like it was way too much, with way too many coincidences in this story. Perfectly-acted, but ambitious like hell.

    • It was ambitious. I actually heard one theater patron complaining about “too much story” on the way out. It really spoke to me though. Two days later and I’m still thinking about it.

  6. Wordschat Says:

    I haven’t heard of this one at all Mark. Until one comment said it was a NW release I thought it was an older title. Thanks for the review sir!

  7. This was an acting tour de force. The three stories were awesome. I really felt for each character and thought they were so believable. I know it’s early but I really believe there are Oscar nominations here. I hope this movie gets widely released and gets the recognition it deserves. 4 1/2 stars

  8. Wow. This might be the highest rating I’ve seen you give a film (of the many great reviews I’ve read here). I cannot wait to check this out. More than likely, Knoxville is gonna be one of the last markets to pick it up…so it’s gonna test my patience!

  9. Interested to see this one and your review confirms it’s worth checking out.

  10. Great review Mark. This is actually the first really positive one I’ve read about this film. A lot of things I’ve seen about it have dubbed it as average, lauding its ambition, but critiquing its follow-through. A few have said that it’s not able to successfully juggle this layered story. I wasn’t planning to check out A Place Beyond the Pines before, however your praise is causing me to reconsider.

  11. Had severe issues trying to see this movie on Friday; may need to see it again sans technical SNAFUs to enjoy it thoroughly and be fully immersed – the final third is the least involving part by far and I can’t believe you liked Cooper’s son because I found him annoying; Dane DeHaan who was pretty strong in CHRONICLE last year was not much better as Gosling’s boy

    • Yeah I thought both young actors were stellar. I took the film as a unified whole in support of a singular grand statement. Didn’t have a problem with any one section.

  12. Great write-up, Mark! One of my most anticipated films of the year. 4.5 stars from you must mean this one shouldn’t be missed! Big fan of Cooper and Gosling, so I’m guessing I’ll enjoy this one a lot.

  13. It’s a bit of a clunky title, but now I’ve read your review it looks much more appealing!

  14. Thought this was F%$&^ing amazing!!! Nice write up Mark.

  15. Diana Post Says:

    Thanks for the review. I saw the movie the other day, great story line, you have to really pay attention. Acting was marvelous. After seeing it, you still think about it. One could hope for an award nomination.

  16. GaryLee828 Says:

    Okay, I recently saw it and agree with your review – except my opinion verges slightly in a different direction…

    And that is that I absolutely loved the first act and felt that it was near flawless. So much to the point that while I did like the following acts it was hard for me to engage in them as well as the first; not b/c they were bad, but b/c the first act was just THAT good!

    While I love the concept of this film with the trilogy I wish the writers could have saved that concept for another film where the audience doesn’t become quite as engaged and invested by the central character and story of the first act. I would have liked the movie better had Luke escaped somehow and Cross made it his focus to catch Luke while Cross battled police corruption, and Luke continued to attempt to become a part of his son’s life and meditate on the moral issues he was dealing with internally that was so masterfully displayed during the church scene when he cried as he watched his son being baptized. Very effective scene that tells you all the right things about the intentions and heart of Luke, and the complexity of this immaculately written character.

    I felt like this was a great film – but if the story focused on Gosling and Copper for the whole movie it could have been an all-time classic. I am not going to take it very well once Gosling goes on his acting hiatus in a few months. Something about him can just bring his characters to life like very few can. He’s not the best actor in Hollywood, but there aren’t very many who are more effective. Just his being, presence, and spirit breathe life into his characters in a way that only a select few other actors are capable of.

    • I enjoyed Ryan Gosling a lot in this film. Upon reflection the first third was probably her best part but that wasn’t obvious while I was watching. I was transfixed throughout the entire film including the final third which I thoroughly enjoyed as well. Overall I appreciated the three parts because it made the drama more epic in scope.

  17. Great performances here…I was especially surprised with Eva Mendes! I’m glad someone else liked this too, because it’s definitely in my top tier of the year so far…

    • Mendes is a wonderful actress. She doesn’t usually get roles where she really gets to act. More known for comedic bits. I enjoyed her in Hitch quite a bit, The Other Guys as well.

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