John Cao’s review published on Letterboxd:
Scavenger Hunt #52
Task 7: A film heavily revolving around music that is NOT a documentary/concert.
"Are you rushing, or are you dragging?"
I'm a drummer. Everyone I know and their mother has been shocked when I told them I haven't seen Whiplash. So imagine my surprise when it still surpasses my expectations by far.
I've seen so many clips of this movie over the past few years that it's like I've already watched it. I'm here to tell you that these short clips don't do the movie justice one bit. Not because they're underwhelming, but because Whiplash is its own cinematic experience that offers so much more when watched fully.
The pacing is energetic without being rushed. The screenplay is intense, and I think it's just over the top enough to leave a very fine impression. Keep in mind that Damien Chazelle was 30. The way he produced Simmons' and Teller's characters is cash money. There's always a powerful sense of direction all throughout the film.
J.K. Simmons performs his "villain" with unique intensity while maintaining an unrelenting drive for excellence. You can't really hate him, even though what he's doing is actually terrible in real life. And that kind of dictates the whole premise of Whiplash. The movie is blunt and purely straightforward. It totally shatters the notions about talent and morals we have and throws hard work in our faces. Hard work at all costs.
In a sense, Whiplash is a slow burn movie. Miles Teller's journey for musical excellence at the cost of his health and relationships is so damn entertaining. Is Teller going to mess up again? What will Simmons throw again this time? Questions we're always asking ourselves because Simmons is so goddamn terrifying and Chazelle is so good at creating tension.
The tempo scene is intimidating. The five hour audition scene is so grueling. And my personal favorite, the table argument is so fucking hilarious, I'd swear it was improv. Giving this movie five stars isn't really a hard choice at all. It truly deserves the highest honor. It's so blatantly obvious that Whiplash is a masterpiece.