Whiplash (5 stars)

LFF 2014: Whiplash

London Film Festival: Damien Chazelle's second film is a story of musical mentorship that plays like a high octane thriller

Captured with a riveting and rhythmic intensity which mirrors its protagonist's ferocious focus and surging drive, Whiplash is an audaciously edited, voraciously performed story of blood, sweat and beats which makes you feel every pummel and thrash. It's set in the dark womb of the fictional Shaffer Conservatory, an elite musical academy whose soundproofing ensures that no-one can hear you scream.

Damien Chazelle's second feature as writer-director, after the little-seen Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, is an increasingly nasty story of maverick mentorship. His screenplay for the recent Grand Piano showed a knack for high concept, high octane musical thrills and Whiplash isn't a million miles away, with Chazelle once again assuming a tight focus and drawing tension from pressurised playing as aspiring drummer Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) attempts to prove himself to psychotically particular conductor Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons), whose jazz band he's invited to join.

Like his character – a young man of unique, obsessive determination who plays until he bleeds and runs from a car-wreck to take his place behind the drum-kit – Teller rises to the occasion. He thrives under the unwavering glare of the mighty Simmons who's not had a cinematic role to match his towering televisual achievement as neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger in HBO's Oz, until now. Simmons has a voice of booming authority that forces you to sit up straight and his vigour as a performer is harnessed to formidable effect as Fletcher terrorises his students and the audience alike.

Expanded from Chazelle's 2013 short – which like this feature-length version caused a sensation at Sundance – Whiplash is everything its snappy title suggests, and comes complete with a thunderous ending that leaves the entire film reverberating in your consciousness.

Screened on Wed 15, Thu 16 and Sat 18 Oct as part of the London Film Festival 2014. General release from Fri 16 Jan 2015.

Whiplash TRAILER 1 (2014) - J.K. Simmons, Miles Teller Movie HD


  • 5 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Damien Chazelle
  • Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Melissa Benoist
  • UK release: 16 January 2015

Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer at Shaffer Conservatory, who falls under the influence of terrifying conductor/instructor Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Teller thrives as the obsessively determined Andrew, and lifelong supporting actor Simmons emerges with formidable authority as the psychotically particular…


1. Michael Wittmann2 Dec 2014, 10:02am Report

I was quite disturbed to see that the reviewer's rated this film so highly. It explores the topic of how to inspire students to greatness. I felt like I was watching a time warp from the 1950s when some male coaches and teachers could physically and verbally abuse students with homophobic and sexist rage, shame, and almost unimaginable humiliation. Further imagine a teacher who uses your deepest and darkest secrets such as the abandonment from your own mother to repeatedly scream at you "That she left you and your father because you are worthless pieces of s**t". Chazelle seriously subjects the audience to his belief that this deeply scarring rage and abuse is required to create a great musician. This movie is more of a deeply disturbing example of why many men will never begin to heal from the layers of shame, depression, and rage. I 'd hate to see this movie nominated for anything and suggest it's creator pick up a book about what really motivates people and recent research into shame, humiliation and the real material of greatness.

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