“Whiplash” acknowledges the philosophy that “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”. It’s a patronising congratulation for those unwilling to push themselves further. Fortunately for the film’s writer and director, Damien Chazelle, Whiplash goes far beyond a “good job”.
Whiplash follows Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a talented, 19-year-old drummer who attends a prestigious music academy in New York City, finding himself under the wing of the most respected professor at the school, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability and his sanity.
Simmons, who has previously starred in the likes of “Spider-Man” and “Juno”, delivers an unforgettable Oscar-worthy performance. The way in which he conveys each of his lines with a menacing and discomforting fury is matched through his overly-expressive body movements, as he snatches the air in a predatory-like nature.
Matching Simmons almost step-for-step is Miles Teller, whose portrayal of a young man going to intense lengths to pursue his dream, no matter what it takes, is a joy to watch. In addition to the passion and determination he shows through Andrew’s love of drumming, Teller also shows a softer side to his acting during a fledgling romantic sub-plot involving theatre assistant Nicole (Melissa Benoist). It’s a well-rounded performance that is likely to be the start of something huge for the young star.
Heightening the drama and the intensity of Whiplash is the film’s editing, which has been handled by Tom Cross and cinematographer Sharone Meir with an almost perfection. The wide range of close-ups and angles used draws the viewer in, as if they are standing amongst the action. This is particularly evident during the climax, which produces more tension than any action film could produce, as the use of camera cuts and pans in rhythm with the beat of the drum.