Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines review

"The Place Beyond the Pines" opens with a long tracking shot, following Luke (Ryan Gosling) across a county fair to the motorcycle stunt show that he stars in, "Luke & The Heartthrobs." From the beginning, Luke lives on the absolute edge, not thinking about tomorrow. For the next two hours and twenty minutes, director Derek Cianfrance takes on a long journey that spans across 15 years where we get to see the consequences of people's actions. Kneejerk decisions that will forever haunt these characters for the rest of their lives.

"Pines" starts its yarn-spinning story with Luke. When he finds out that a fling he had with a former lover (Eva Mendes) has resulted in a baby boy, suddenly Luke begins to think about the future. Not having his own father in his life has haunted him, and now he wants to make sure his son doesn't go through the same thing. But Luke does not have many skills beyond his motorcycle riding. He meets up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) who gives him a job, not paying him much. Robin used to be a bank robber but has long since quit that racket. Still, when Robin casually brings up his criminal past, Luke immediately wants in. So they start robbing banks together. Luke wants to give his son everything that he can possibly give him, but does not begin to realize the consequence of his actions until it's much too late.

Luke's crimes put him on a collision course with rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Avery also has to deal with the consequences of his actions. He sees the corruption that goes on in the police force and wants to change things, much to the chagrin of his fellow officers. Avery's bravery in action has lead the town of Schenectady, New York to think of him as a hero. We watch Avery as he rises from rookie cop to Attorney General. But his ambitions is met with obstacles that forever change his fate.

I'm dancing around a lot of key plot details so that's as far as I'll go. But The Place Beyond the Pines does a superb job of telling this story that links multiple characters in this small American town. Once again, Cianfrance gives us incredible insight into these families. He did that with "Blue Valentine" and here it's done to a much more epic scale. Indeed, "Pines" raises the stakes on pretty much every level, compared to "Blue Valentine." I did not give a full review of Blue Valentine, but I admired it greatly. I wasn't completely floored with it, but I knew Cianfrance had the potential to make something even greater. He does so here, absolutely.

Everything from the beautiful cinematography to the unbelievably intense acting from everyone involved, The Place Beyond the Pines makes its mark as one of the best films of 2013 so far. Bradley Cooper showed his potential in "Silver Linings Playbook" but he's way better here. It's also nice to see Ben Mendelsohn in another great role. Every decade always seems to have a ubiquitous character actor who shines in every movie they're in, Mendelsohn is becoming one of those actors.

Is "Pines" perfect? Not exactly. Because of its three-story structure, some aspects of the story feels more rushed than others. But Cianfrance tries something that other directors would never dare to try, with this particular story, this was an incredibly difficult story to pull off. Cianfrance went above and beyond, for sure.

Grade: A-

note: Sorry for the lousy review. This movie deserves much better. But seriously, this is a must-see. That's all that needs to be said.

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