“Whiplash” is an almost terrifying character thriller. It features one of the most ruthless antagonists in recent memory. J.K. Simmons plays Terence Feltcher, an uncomprimising orchestra conductor, who uses harsh and brutal ridicule as a way of pushing band players to be great. Miles teller plays his newest drummer, a timid kid who just wants to be one of the greats. Their scenes together power this movie to amazing heights, rarely seen on screen. The drama and the tension were incredible.
Who knew J.K. Simmons could be so intimidating. His character is named Terrence Fletcher. When we walks in to a room for the first time you can tell he has zero patients for anything less then perfection. When he hears one of his players is out of tune he singles that person out and destroys them. During the course of this film he will push Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) to the brink of insanity and self destruction before a final confrontation that leaps of the screen and becomes one of those moments in film history that will not be forgotten. I’ll get back to that later.
Teller is a real revelation here. I have enjoyed him so far in films like “That Awkward Moment” and “The Spectacular Now”. His characters have been mostly popular guys who have a semi-dark side. Here he lets the monster out after he reaches his breaking point. I also have no idea if Teller has any drumming skills in his background but on the basis of his performance I can say he looks like a pro. His father is played Paul Reiser who raised him as a single dad and is none to happy to find out how he is being taught by Fletcher.
Everything comes to a head during a concert at the end of the film. It is a confrontation between two different mind sets. They go head on at what starts out as a game of wits that eventually turns in to a bizarre mutual admiration. All of this is done through performance. The actual performances by the actors in this sequence are electrifying.
“Whiplash” comes at a time when mainstream films have been boring me lately. Big budget studio films are starting to run together. It is nice to get a character drama that uses expert directing, writing and performances to truly inspire us. This is what going to the movies is all about.