I watch Derek Cianfrance's quietly powerful The Place Beyond The Pines - Review

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Friday, April 12, 2013

photo the-place-beyond-the-pines.jpgA couple of months ago when I went in to see Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond The Pines I thought I had a notion of what to expect - the bits and pieces that I had seen alluded to Ryan Gosling seemingly performing a variation on his brooding driver role from Drive (switching to a bike and driving around small town rather than a neon lit L.A.) going up against Bradley Cooper's policeman. The Place Beyond The Pines starts somewhere close to my expectations before breaking ground and heading somewhere much, much bigger. The Place Beyond The Pines is a sweepingly beautiful and haunting slice of Americana storytelling. After a tense and melodramatic journey it had my inner child cheering through my misty eyes. The Place Beyond The Pines is a touching piece of filmmaking so much so that I was still thinking about moments from the film and how it all fit together long after seeing it.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Poster (Click to enlarge)
One of The Place Beyond The Pines major strengths is the breadth and scope of its story, the surprise of which will sadly be lost for many, as much of the plot  has been discussed and openly dissected in reviews, deflating what could have been a quietly powerful viewing experience like the one I enjoyed.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Ryan Gosling as Handsome Luke and Eva Mendes as Romina (Click to enlarge)

Although more sweeping and of wider scope than Cianfrance's previous collaboration with Ryan Gosling Blue Valentine - a reflective and haunting take on romance, in a similar fashion, with The Place Beyond The Pines Derek Cianfrance turns his eye to the crime genre or rather the consequences of man's actions as he explores the nature of crime and themes of guilt, legacy & identity.

Video: The Establishing Shot: THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES UK TRAILER - 12 APRIL 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines is an ambitious and poignant tale, the likes and subtlety of which may have fallen out of favour with modern audiences whose appetites have been conditioned to cut to the chase elevator pitch, which explodes, before getting the girl and the final climatic toe to toe confrontation between good and evil wrapped up with a wisecrack and wink to the dying lyrics of "that's why its called show business and not show art" playing over the sound of tills Kaching-ing.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Ryan Gosling Handsome Luke Rides Like Lightning (Click to enlarge)

Whilst The Place Beyond The Pines does have some of these elements and particularly noteworthy adrenaline pumping chase scenes - no doubt fuelled by Derek Cianfrance's experience of riding with Vietnam veteran biker clubs for his documentary Rolling Thunder – Ride for Freedom and cinematographer work on a street racing feature Streets of Legend. But I suspect that if not for the inclusion of the all star cast including; Ryan Gosling,  Bradley Cooper, Ben MendelsohnRay Liotta, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne that it would be a much harder sell to mainstream audiences.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Bradley Cooper as Avery (Click to enlarge)

The thoughtful pacing as the narrative rolls out, combined with Cianfrance capturing the melancholy of upstate small town America, and the mood of the people that live in the shadow of New York so authentically that I was surprised to find that The Place Beyond The Pines was not adapted from a great Americana book, but was an original story from Derek Cianfrance.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Ben Mendelsohn as surprisingly likeable criminal Robin (Click to enlarge)

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a high-wire motorcycle stunt performer who travels with the carnival from town to town. While passing through Schenectady in upstate New York, he tries to reconnect with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), only to learn that she has given birth to their son Jason in his absence. Luke decides to give up life on the road to try and provide for his newfound family by taking a job as a car mechanic. Noticing Luke’s ambition and talents, his employer Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) proposes to partner with Luke in a string of spectacular bank robberies – which will place Luke on the radar of ambitious rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).

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The Place Beyond The Pines Handsome Luke gets paid (Click to enlarge)

Derek Cianfrance's skill is not limited to storytelling or engaging emotive visual stylings aided by DOP Sean Bobbitt- see the great single shot opening scene that captures the pent up inner psyche of Luke -

Video: The Place Beyond The Pines - Opening Scene

But Cianfrance also brings out great performances from most of his cast, but what do you expect when have the top notch cast he brought together for Pines and also includes relative newcomers Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen - with almost each performer playing against expectations, except Ryan Gosling who takes his current penchant for playing lost bad boys to its tragic extreme and slowly etching away at his heartthrob image and moving closer to credible screen performer.

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The Place Beyond The Pines Emory Cohen & Dane DeHaan (Click to enlarge) 

I have to make mention of the captivating chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Ben Mendelsohn - all their scenes crackle and pop off the screen with electricity and I hope they bring this dynamic back together again in another feature.

Video: The Place Beyond The Pines - Anatomy of a Scene: Riding Like Lightning

However as much as I enjoyed The Place Beyond The Pines it is not a perfect film - the hypnotising visuals and opiate soundtrack dreamily smooth over jumps in mood whilst following multiple character driven narrative weaves. And even though much of this is as much my fault as the casting decisions, I struggled with some of the performers breathing life into their characters - I can't help but think that even though the film may have had less A+ box office appeal, it may have been immeasurably more interesting with a cast of unknowns becoming the lead characters.  I'll be seeing The Place Beyond The Pines again taking my wife before it leaves cinemas.

The Place Beyond the Pines is in cinemas from today Friday 12 April 2013
A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective.

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio & Darius Marder
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Craig Van Hook, Eva Mendes


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