Wednesday, January 1, 2014
A Strange Ride Through Beautiful Vistas: The Place Beyond The Pines
Movie Review: The Place Beyond The Pines
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Reviewed: 30 December 2013
jamesintexas rating-- **1/2
Derek Cianfrance's elliptical new film The Place Beyond The Pines is structured as a story of fathers and sons, as well as legacies in upstate New York. A long tracking shot establishes Luke (Ryan Gosling), a heavily-tattooed stunt motorcyclist, making money driving inside of a metal cage with two other men. The three bikes come within inches of each other, and an elaborate synchronicity is all that prevents disaster. With that looming and ominous foreshadowing, Cianfrance shows Luke's fledgling relationship with Malina (Eva Mendes), and by the time he returns the next year, she has a small baby. Luke leaves his way of life but falls into robbing banks using his bike skills to evade capture.
To say more would be to ruin some of the pleasures of this film. I genuinely was surprised and gasped at three separate moments that occur. The camera fluidly follows Gosling's character, sometimes walking and sometimes on his motorcycle. Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn all star as well, but seeing the story unfold in this particular way is what Cianfrance is after.
And its own structure is its undoing. The second and third chapters of the film feature woefully underdeveloped characters with little access to their thoughts, memories, or motivations. Several are downright unlikable. Cianfrance's work here is overly ambitious, throwing a high school story alongside a political campaign, and even after major developments, main characters do not speak. I admire Cianfrance's bold shift about forty-five minutes into the film, and the cinematography shoots gorgeous arrays of trees and winding roads. I think this story needed much more time to be told, or it needed to be more sharply focused. Despite its limitations, The Place Beyond The Pines has undeniable power and an intensity that I admired.