The Place Beyond the Pines (3 stars)

The Place Beyond the Pines

Ambitious thriller from the director of Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper

Reteaming Ryan Gosling with his Blue Valentine writer/director Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines is a thriller with a higher pedigree than most, with impressive support from Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne and Ray Liotta. The result is an oddly broken-backed narrative, with three distinct chapters and no central character to carry the narrative. The ambition, to tell a complex story over two generations, is laudable, but the result isn’t entirely satisfying.

Cianfrance’s story opens with a remarkable tracking shot following Luke (Gosling) as he dresses, crosses a packed fairground floor, mounts a motorcycle and takes part in a death-defying stunt. Afterwards Luke reconnects with old flame Romina (Mendes), who is taking care of an infant son Luke didn’t know he had. Vexed with his responsibility, Luke takes up robbing local banks on his souped-up bike, but his daredevil escapes brings him to the attention of ambitious cop Avery Cross (Cooper), who has a young son of the same age.

The Place Beyond The Pines has a surprising plot twist which derails the narrative, while a second twist, which moves the action fifteen years forward in time, is much less convincing, particularly as no other details other than the ages of the children seem to have changed. It’s a disappointingly sloppy approach given that the first act of Cianfrance’s drama is so compelling, with Gosling’s charismatic performances as the scuzzy hero offering a variation on his savage chauffeur in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Cooper, Mendes and an underused Liotta all perform well, but there’s a fatal flaw in Cianfrance’s execution; capturing how the sins of the fathers are passed onto the sons may make for great drama on paper, but The Place Beyond The Pines never manages to find an emotional pay-off from its grand design.

Limited release from Fri 12 Apr.

The Place Beyond the Pines - Official Trailer [HD]

The Place Beyond the Pines

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 2h 20min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
  • Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Darius Marder, Ben Coccio
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes
  • UK release: 12 April 2013

Luke (Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist who takes to robbing banks on his bike, until ambitious cop Avery (Cooper) starts to trail him. This ambitious thriller tries to tell a complex story over two generations, but despite good performances the oddly broken-backed narrative prevents it from finding an emotional pay-off.