What began as a short film seeking funding at last year’s Sundance has come to fruition as one of 2014’s best films. A must-see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Damien Chazelle’s magnificent Whiplash offers stellar performances and a powerful, morally ambiguous plot. It concerns young Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is in his first year at the top music institution in the country. Picked for one of the school’s most competitive bands by its relentless conductor, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), Andrew finds himself desperately fighting to prove his worth.
Whiplash is a game-changer for all involved. Teller reaffirms himself as one of the most talented actors of his generation. Meanwhile, Simmons gives a career-defining turn as a sadistic conductor who makes R. Lee Ermey look like Winnie the Pooh. We’re not meant to like either character for their humility – neither have much of it. What they do have is zeal, and persistence.
While an exhilarating and intoxicating film, Whiplash is not a feel-good, inspirational flick about how we all have the potential for greatness. Quite the opposite. At the crux of Whiplash lies the hard truth: true greatness takes blood, sweat and tears, and not a trophy for trying. As we suffer through the arrogance of the Me Generation, such lessons are increasingly pertinent, if challenging to swallow.
Whiplash is about the pursuit of greatness, and the struggle that entails. Expertly paced, and fueled by exquisite tension from start to finish, it is a film that should not be missed.
— Ariel Fisher