Whiplash (2014)

Arguably the best film of 2014. An aspiring, young drummer at a music conservatory is pushed by his mentor to try and become a great.

Beware the following will contain plot detail.

Having watched this just 2 years ago, this film lingers on in my memory as a truly exceptional film. Since then, I think there has only been a handful of films close to its originality and thrilling nature (hopefully I will get to those). Every scene is beautifully shot and builds on the story like a crescendo. I don’t remember paying particular attention to the lighting in the opening scenes, or the exact tempo Andrew was drumming. However, this is one of those films that has spawned such in-depth analysis and a fandom. As a testament to its quality, even now, I’m interested.

To list a couple of highlights, one is J.K. Simmon’s Fletcher, which he won an Oscar for, who added a level of intensity matching that of the drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket (hopefully will get to that too), and also in terms of comedy. The other is the music itself, both Whiplash, Caravan and the whole soundtrack, which I could listen to endlessly. In fact, I listened to Whiplash over 200 times on repeat soon after watching the film.

For me, this film produced many firsts for me. First time I felt my heart sink. First film to make Miles Teller a future talent to look out for. Finally, it is a music film recommendable to anyone.

In trying to summarise the film in 1 sentence as above, I had trouble. Not through memory, but rather the fine line between being pushing boundaries and abuse. I was tempted to write instead, “An aspiring drummer tries to fulfill his dreams”.   Undoubtedly, Andrew was abused, but was it his own desire and fixation? And, isn’t such training necessary? These are questions that only the most well written and produced films ask and leave you wondering.


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