George Bartlett’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Place Beyond the Pines. I went into this movie expecting to be impressed, but I have been struggling to start this review because I wasn't sure I could do The Place Beyond the Pines justice. This film blew me away and left me speechless, and is certainly one that will stay on my mind for a long time.
The movie opens with a scene, filmed in one take, following Luke (Ryan Gosling) from his room, across the fair, to the circle of death where Luke and a couple of other motorcycle stunt men perform their incredible act. This may have only lasted just over five minutes, but this opening scene blew me away and I can certainly appreciate how much effort must have gone into preparing and filming this scene all in one take.
This is where Luke meets his ex-lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), and learns that he is the father of her son. When Luke realizes he can use his skill set to provide for his family, he eventually collides with rookie cop Avery Ross (Bradley Cooper), setting up a series of events that will have consequences for the sons of the two fathers. That is all I want to say about the plot, as there's a lot to be surprised by in The Place Beyond the Pines. However, without spoiling anything, there is something I want to mention that could be the reason for people being turned off by this film.
Firstly, Ryan Gosling is not necessarily the star of The Place Beyond the Pines. His character's role in the story is fairly balanced with the role of Bradley Cooper's. Saying that, the first act of the movie that primarily focuses on Luke (Ryan Gosling) and his path to becoming a bank robber, could easily steal the show. Surprisingly however, the second act of the movie, focusing on Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), I thought was never lacking in comparison to the third. Despite the change in story, it never lacked the tension or intrigue of the first act. My heart was in my throat from the many threats both of these characters faced, and I almost couldn't bear to watch when their worlds began to fall apart.
The third act is where things change dramatically, as we enter a very different story. I can understand why some viewers may be unwelcoming to the new characters and new stories this act introduces, and I've ever heard some people say that they wish the movie had ended before this story began. But I feel that this final act was a necessary change in pace that, although can sometimes lack the intensity and drama of its predecessors, gave the movie the ending it needed. Not showing what happened in this concluding act would have been very contradictory to what the movie as a whole is about, so I was never unwelcoming to this sudden change in story, despite it having it's fair share of slow points.
Overall, I found The Place Beyond the Pines to be one of the most fulfilling movies I've seen in a long time. Despite its near three-hour run time, the movie never felt slow and certainly never felt as though it wasted any time. Thanks to a number of very moving moments, a mesmerizing soundtrack, expert film-making, incredible performances and some eye-opening messages, The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie I won't soon forget, and is one I look forward to revisiting.