The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines ★★★★½

There are not enough films around like The Place Beyond the Pines. It is a film very much about themes and character; it is deep and intimate in the story it is telling. At the same time, it is bold and towering. For every moment of quiet tenderness, there is a motorbike chase or bank robbery. It's a thoughtful indie-like story done on a far bigger scale.

This is the work of a very talented director in Derek Cianfrance. His previous feature film, Blue Valentine, was right up there with my favourite films of 2010. That film too, was an intimate story told in an unconventional manner. There, the story is told through alternating timelines, the past and the present. Here the film stretches 15 years and features 3 separate parts of the story and 3 (or 4) separate protagonists. We spend 45 minutes with the one character only for him to leave the screen for the rest of the film. It has been done before (Psycho for example), but it is still a bold move, especially when those 45 minutes are so fantastic. But these events only enhance the rest of the film, as they serve to build, haunt and restrain the rest of the characters.

Every area of film-making is done well here. As mentioned, the direction is superb. The acting is as a whole very good, with some well above average turns. Ryan Gosling doesn't have to stretch himself like he did with Blue Valentine, but he manages to make the character both engaging and sympathetic. I don't think Bradley Cooper is a particularly good actor, but he does solid work here with a well-rounded character. Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen in the film's final third probably give us the film's best work, delivering very mature and considered performances. Aussie Ben Mendelsohn is the stand out of the supporting cast.

Sean Bobbitt, currently building a very solid resume as the DP for all of Steve McQueen's films, has done an amazing job with the cinematography. Long tracking shots, a car chase and Gosling riding through trees on his bike are just some of the "tricks" he has, but it is more than that. He has perfectly matched Cianfrance's ambitions, delivering photography that is at times peaceful and hushed but also flashy when necessary. A mention should also be made to Mike Patton's haunting score.

Films reaching this high so often fall short, and The Place Beyond the Pines doesn't fully get there. You are left with the feeling that even after 2 hours and 20 minutes there is still so much to be told. But what we do get is a bold and powerful film that achieves far more than most.

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