The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines ★★★½

This is a potentially great film that is almost entirely ruined by one, baffling decision.

The opening 100 minutes or so of this film is an absolute masterpiece that could've led to the film of the year. Ryan Gosling is at his absolute best as a motorcycle stunt rider who turns bank robber when he discovers that he has a son with ex-partner Eva Mendes.

His eyes convey a deep sadness behind his character's arrogant facade and his descent into criminality is portrayed wonderfully through Derek Cianfrance's script, pacing and direction. One sequence involving Gosling being chased by the police is one of the most directorially exciting and inventive scenes of the year so far.

The second half of the initial diptych is Bradley Cooper as a hero cop. This is without doubt a career best performance from the star of The Hangover as he uncovers some unsavoury dealings within the police force and is forced to decide whether to take a moral stand. Rose Byrne is criminally underused as his struggling wife.

It is here that the film flashes into the future for a poignant funeral scene and I had just experienced the best film of the year.

This is where it should've ended.

Instead, the film launches into a third segment that continues to tie Gosling and Cooper's characters together in a contrived, irritating and entirely pointless way. A strong performance from Dane DeHaan is not enough to rescue the film from here and the resulting 30-40 minutes is utterly boring.

There is no reason for this segment to have existed and it over-reaches itself horribly.

Despite star turns from Cooper and Gosling, this is a prime example of a writer-director getting a little too excited and trying to be just a little too clever. What a shame.