Movie Review: ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

By Brent Glass (@BrentAMG)

Place Beyond the Pines

Talk about an all-star cast.  Ry-Ry (Ryan Gosling), Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta.  I remember watching the trailer thinking that The Place Beyond the Pines would easily be one of the best pictures of 2013.  I want you to watch it, intently, and enjoy the experience.  I’ll provide a brief summary and offer some insights and comment on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the film.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a three-part saga.  Each of the three distinct stories are connected and reverberate similar themes such as fatherhood, justice, revenge, and the frailty of humankind.  The first of these stories involves Ryan Gosling’s character, Luke, who is a talented motorcyclist.  Discovering he fathered a son with Romina (Mendes) last year when in Schnectedy, NY, Luke decides to quit his traveling stunt-act and provide for his child.  Because of his unique set of skills (Taken reference, boom), he cannot find steady work that enables him to edge out his competition: Romina’s new lover.  The natural response for Luke is to begin robbing banks.  In short, this life choice puts him on a path to crossing rookie-officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  From their initial meeting, their lives were intertwined.

The second story focuses on the rise of hero-cop Avery Cross.  The son of a New York Supreme Court judge, Cross disappointed his father when he became a police officer, despite his having a law degree and passing the bar.  However, when cataclysmic events create an opportunity for the quick and resourceful officer, he finds a way to rapidly ascend the latter of success.  Most of the this occurred, of course, at the expense of his family.

The third story (or act, as one may call it) primarily focuses on the new friendship of Avery Cross Jr. – aka AJ (Emory Cohen) – and the son of Luke Glanton, Jason (Dane DeHaan).  A son of divorced parents, AJ leads a life absent of a strong father figure and, as a result, falls into alcohol, illegal drugs, and smugness.  When he moves to Schnectedy to live with his father for his senior year, he meets Jason.  The two misfits form a bond.  Unknowingly, AJ’s and Jason’s lives are far more intertwined than they could have imagined.  When these demons begin to reveal themselves, lives change.  I hope that tease was enough to entice you to watch the movie; there were many strengths.

Strengths:  Obviously, the most prominent plus of the film was the acting prowess.  Each actor has previously proven themselves to be in the upper-echelon of Hollywood; particularly Gosling.  As he has displayed in other films, Gosling is magnetic on screen (beyond his striking good looks).  He is able to convey a lot of different emotions and thoughts without uttering a word; a talent that Bryan Cranston has epitomized in his role as Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad.  The directing and cinematography were sensational.  Additionally, the music was top-notch.  The score bolstered the emotions of each scene, while careful to never overpower the actors.

Weaknesses:  The third act.  The first two acts were masterpieces of story-telling.  The themes were relevant and the execution was flawless.  However, something seemed to be lacking in the third section.  It is difficult to pinpoint what was problematic but I believe it could be something to do with the fact that it was driven by young actors and, while they are certainly not terrible, they do not possess the same experience as the veterans that dominated the first two sections.  The juxtaposition of different experience levels of actors hurt the film, I believe, because it exposed the detriment of the young actors.  Furthermore — and this is completely subjective — one of the lines by Luke’s friend, Robin, really bothered me.  If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.  I expected more.  I thought it was cheesy.  Maybe the line itself was okay but the delivery was all wrong.  I don’t know.  I do know, however, that I didn’t like it.

While I would rank Beyond the Pines in the top films of 2013 thus far, it did have some disappointing aspects; it was not the flawless film that I preemptively decided it would be.  I believe that film lovers and story-tellers should see this movie.  If you liked Blue Valentine, you will like this movie (same director, Derek Cianfrance).  This is definitely a movie I will someday buy for my collection.  4.4/ 5

Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either economics, public policy, political science or business.

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