★★★★★ | Whiplash

19-year-old Andrew Neyman wants to be the next Buddy Rich.

This aspiring young drummer who is completely obsessed with his burning ambition has managed to get himself enrolled at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music in Manhattan, which is ranked No. 1 in the country. Now he is desperate to be recruited into the School’s band led by its legendary leader Terrence Fletcher. Even after he catches Fletcher’s attention one day and is invited to become the Band’s alternate drummer, he is never sure if he will succeed and achieve his dream especially when Fletcher’s initial charming approach soon dissipates to reveal his true nature.

The bald-headed Fletcher is nothing short than a sadistic bully akin to the worse kind of Army Drill Sergeant who insists on insulting, terrorising and abusing his talented charges. However, Andrew is not only willing but even eager to take all the public humiliation Fletcher dishes out since it forces him to suffer for a cause he chooses to believe will be worth it. After all his other idol Charlie Parker only went from good to great after a traumatic incident that induced him to sacrifice a year to intensive practice.

During the Band’s rehearsals for some upcoming crucial Competitions Fletcher deliberately demands the near impossible, berating any of the frightened players who make a mistake and even those who don’t. He promotes Andrew from page-turner to featured drummer and then quickly demotes him back again after screaming more abuse at him and making him cry in the process. There are times he pushes Andrew to practice so hard that his hands actually bleed, and then still not content he hurls a cymbal across the room at him.

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Out of school, Andrew is very much a loner, and when he does eventually pluck up the courage to ask a girl out and start dating her, he very quickly dumps her because he feels she maybe a distraction from all the practice he needs to do to appease Fletcher in the hope of eventually becoming the lead drummer. He is also afraid of emulating the failure of his father who’s writing career never took off and he ended up be resigned to settling with just being a schoolteacher instead.

This exhilarating indie movie was the opening gala of the Sundance 2014 Film Festival having started life however as a three-sequence film that won the US short film jury prize at Sundance the previous year. It stars the immensely talented Miles Teller (‘The Spectacular Now’) as young Andrew struggling to maximise his artistic talent regardless of the intense physical and mental pressures. It is however the subliminal career-defining performance from veteran character actor J K Simmons that ignites the screen as Fletcher a profane and seemingly unstoppable villain that has propelled this wee movie on to a much wider audience than it would normally have expected to reach. It has won a strew of well-deserved Awards culminating in a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

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The music throughout is also quite electric and wonderfully adds tension to some of the more frenetic scenes. This very personal second film from writer-director Damien Chazelle, ended up with an unprecedented 3 Academy Awards (Film Editing and Sound Editing) which certainly also makes him a talent to look out for too.

Fletcher cuttingly remarks at one point that the lamest two words in the English language are ‘good job’ so we will carefully note that this is not good, but an excellent one.

About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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