Why Whiplash is Such a Great Film

An article about a film? On a gaming blog?! OH MY F*CKING GOD (police sirens, gunshots, explosions and head traumas ensue)!

I’m actually a really big film fan, too. In the run up to awards season I try and cram in time to watch all the nominated films, so I can draw my own conclusions before the Oscars take place. I didn’t really expect much going in to Whiplash, probably because most teacher/student, or school-centred films have only ever been so good, for example Dead Poet’s Society and Juno had excellent scripting, but this was the only outstanding element to both of them, and most of these films have the ubiquitous ‘feel-good’ ending. So I entered this film, assuming my ‘let’s get ready to feel good’ stance (God, that sounds creepy), and, needless to say, I was pretty confused after a few minutes. But in a really good way.

It’s Accessible To Anyone

What’s so great about this film is that, for a film about becoming a musician, it’s nothing to do with music. Have you ever played an instrument, or run a long distance? I dabble at guitar, and after my fingers become indented and the callouses start to tear, my first instinct is to stop and take a rest, but there’s always that small voice inside you that says “come on, it’s just pain! You have to keep practising, or you’ll only get worse”. And this movie is about what would happen if you trusted that small voice, if that instinct to compulsively keep going consumed you entirely, and you disassociate yourself with pain and personal matters in a determined gay abandon. If there’s ever been a certain skill you thought you could pursue into professionalism and greatness, the film is about becoming a slave to that skill, constantly nurturing it and fuelling it at the expense of your own happiness. And on that point, the film raises an interesting question, is all the pain of the constant, obsequious practice really pain at all? And is Miles Teller actually abandoning happiness or is he embracing it? It’s almost as if the paradigm completely shifts, as the happiness of his personal life becomes the pain of being away from practising drums, and the pain of practising drums becomes the happiness of improving himself.

J.K. Simmons Exhibits Acting Porn

J.K. Simmons plays the teacher, Mr Fletcher, who I believe is the personification of that small, incessant, but violent voice inside you that tells you to keep going. But this particular voice absolutely makes sure you get that work done. He uses threats, violence, insults, he holds Miles Teller right up to the proverbial edge of his potential, pushing him and pushing him, but completely in control as to make sure he doesn’t push him over that edge. Simmons shows a wide range of emotion, reaching the extremities of many, and sets a scene of tension with such ease. As I said before, he uses threats, violence and slurs on his students, and so you never really know when he will break out into screaming. Fletcher only accepts perfection, and so when one of his students happens to be out of key, Simmons makes it so painfully clear that he is going to snap, but chooses to wallow in the tension for an unnerving amount of time. It’s scarier than most horror films.

Fletcher is Such an Interesting Character

Everyone in this film is well acted and characterised, but Simmons really brings out the brilliance in the character of Fletcher. Fletcher is violent, abusive, oppressive, and yet Miles Teller’s character is so reluctant to hate him. Fletcher brings about an awful lot of suffering, but in the end, no one resents him for it. Anyone could leave his class at any time, but they choose to stay because, I think, without him they would not have the incentive to push themselves. Not only this, but every harsh, speciously cruel thing Fletcher seems to do is, in hindsight, done to help people. This goes back to the question of ‘is the pain good after all’?

This Film has a Brilliant Ending

I won’t spoil anything for you, but the ending to this film is sublime. It’s not something so mind-bending or fantastical as The Usual Suspects or Shutter Island, but the closing of this film is so utterly satisfying and suspicion-confirming. Throughout all of Teller’s pain and efforts comes a ripe, pitch-perfect reward. It’s hard to explain, really. Just watch the damn movie, already!

The Verdict

I would be quite surprised if Simmons doesn’t nab the Academy Award this year. It might even get best adapted screenplay, next to The Theory of Everything. I can’t rave about this film enough, it’s one of those movies where every shot matters. Every sentence adds value to this film, nothing is superfluous in this masterclass of acting and narrative.

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2 thoughts on “Why Whiplash is Such a Great Film

  1. I thought it was a great review for a movie I have never seen and it made me want to watch it. Thanks for dedicating yourself to writing and I do hope you keep on with your blog. Hope to see some more great movies in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

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