Terence Fletcher: You are a worthless, friendless, faggot-lipped little piece of shit whose mommy left daddy when she figured out he wasn't Eugene O'Neill and who's now weeping and slobbering all over my drum set like a fucking nine-year-old girl! Now, for the final FATHER FUCKING time... SAY IT LOUDER!
Let me just say for starters, I had do idea that drumming was so intense. But director and writer, Damien Chazelle, sure showed me how hard this drumming world can be.
Last we saw, 'Birdman' was reviewing the insane qualities and quantities of the actor's ego. Now, we have another kind of artistic insanity playing, or should I actually say, drumming through our screens. 'Whiplash' ladies and gentlement, is her to astound you in every literal sense. It is so horrifically amazing, it will make you sweat and drum yourself to sleep at night.
'Whiplash' follows the story of a young and talented drummer, Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller), attending a prestigious music academy, who finds himself under the wing of the most respected professor at the school, Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmons), one who does not hold back on abuse towards his students. The two form an odd relationship as the student tries to achieve greatness, and the professor tries to stop him.
The story is hardly sentimental or emotional to say the least, but instead it dwells on the aggressiveness of the forcing power dynamics on each other. Chazelle, so cleverly introduces your protagonist and your antagonist within five minutes time and sets up the story line of what is about to follow. Two characters, play off each other, trying to elevate the action-reaction technique with a compelling rhythym of insensitivity and pain-stakingly high pressure. If I exercise this on him, I will have to get this as a reaction. This whole film is an action-reaction process of what the antagonist will do to get the reaction he wants out of the protagonist. A power struggle in all its glory.
For this purpose Chazelle, very carefully handpicked the roles of J.K. Simmons as the professor, who taunts in every possible way the student, and for the drummer student the roles is portrayed by Miles Teller, who seems not only to have over-performed in this movie, but to have made it so personal in how he would play the drum set that it gave you goosebumps and had you cringe at his every suffering drumming moment.
Throughout the film, there is a sense of claustrophobia, of bullying and taunting that has you feeling asphyxiated. As if the bullying especially is being exercised on you. This was achieved primarily but the non-cut-aways. Chazelle, lets the scenes flow, lets you experience what it really feels like to be under the pressure, as if you would perform in the band yourself. He rarely let's the audience of the hook, and makes it his purpose to make us feel just like Teller's character feels; the anxiety, the stress, the traumatic yelling and beating until the professor is pleased. The blood, sweat and tears in other words.
This is a film that has the word 'pressure' written all over it. From the moment it starts to the moment if finishes. It does not let you breathe. But it sure gives you one spectacular jazzy ending that sways you long after you've stopped watching it.