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The Place Beyond The Pines Review

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Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Dean DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Bruce Greenwood, and Ray Liotta

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Certificate: 15

Synopsis: A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their new-born child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective.

Director Derek Cianfrance previously transported us into the deeply candid world of BLUE VALENTINE, which starred Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. This time, he’s grabbed the Gosling again, plus added Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper to dig into the harsh realities of life and once again focus on relationship, but this time the ever-changing existence of two families.

Ryan Gosling is Luke, a circus stunt motorcycle rider who opens THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES with Cianfrance’s camera following behind him in a beautiful, immersive tracking shot as he walks through the fairground towards his motorcycle stunt tent. In there, two other bikers wait for him, so they can all zoom off up into a giant steel ball and skyrocket- around each other for a death-defying trick and although these tricks are a side-story to the film, this metaphor to Luke’s lack of fear will be the only controlled part of his existence as everything else around begins to unravel.

The film is cut into three acts over a 15-year period, the sheer scale of proceedings turn it into something of epic proportions but with a substantial, satisfying narrative. Some directors can try to be too knowing with interweaving stories and feel the need to throw in story-after-story but THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES works because it settles down into specific two tales and how fate, or even luck, can change everything that follows it.

Without wanting to spoil the movie before you’ve seen it, I’ll stay clear from specific plot points but offer you the fact that Ryan Gosling is once again outstanding, taking the essence of his DRIVE character but with less control and an even faster, uncontrollable violent streak. His personal demons outweigh his desire to do the ‘right thing’ and he’s a captivating screen presence. Eva Mendes plays Romina and gives a compelling performance throughout the generational change; she’s formidable to the scenarios that evolve and offers a stable, yet vulnerable, strength in her role. After SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, it’s also interesting to see Bradley Cooper on the straight and narrow again. His rookie cop character Avery, crosses the path of bank robber Luke and although he’s also trying to follow the path that’s morally right, he’s accidentally part of a corrupt police department and dealing with issues beyond his control. It’s great to see both Cooper & Mendes pushed to breaking point by their situations in ways we’ve not seen from them before.

In the third act, the performances of Dean DeHaan and Emory Cohen as the later generation are also notable with both actors enhancing their reputation as talent to watch, especially DeHaan who shines as a destructive force of nature.  However, this finale feels like it would have benefited from a slight cut, as the 140-minute film starts to drag but the necessary, for me, outweighs the edge of cliché.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES won’t be for every cinema-lover, the emotional burden could be taken as justifiably domineering but with such tremendous acting performances, this rich and encapsulating thriller is a masterful tale of consequence and an enormous accomplishment in storytelling yet again from Cianfrance.

4 Star New THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES opens in the UK on 12th April. 

Dan loves writing, film, music and photography. Originally from Devon, he's now found in London with a growing obsession with squirrels and cake. The latter being more of a hobby. Favourite movies include HIGH FIDELITY, ALMOST FAMOUS, GOOD WILL HUNTING, JURASSIC PARK, too many Steve Martin films and Nolan's BATMAN universe. He can also be found on www.twitter.com/danbullock
  • Bianca

    I’ve been waiting to see this film for way too long, merely because nothing sounds better than a film with both of the nowadays Hollywood heart-throbs: Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Being a major fan of the latter I thought I’m going to satisfy my eye-candy craving, but I have to say first and foremost: I have not seen Bradley Cooper on the screen this time. So much different from the usual characters he plays, even from Pat Solitano (Silver Linings Playbook) – Avery Cross was more real than anything seen before brought by him (I still can’t believe he agreed to play in the appalling All About Steve…). Moving on from that, the structure of the film is absolutely beautiful and seriously hit home for me. You meet the heroes one by one, you get familiar with them slowly and when you get to love them most, they just crash to the ground (quite literally). Ryan Gosling, was his usual quiet self, Bradley Cooper’s Avery did what he thought it would be best in the name of justice. Things went wrong, past haunted them and in the end there not much of a resolution but the fact that one can’t escape their past and they can only move forward, somewhere to a place beyond the pines. (got a bit cheesy there, sorry…)

    Have to say, I really wanted to hop on a motorbike when I left the cinema.

  • http://twitter.com/danbullock Dan B

    Lovely feedback! I’m always eager to hear what others thought, as it’s all opinion after all, but impressed by all involved and really glad to see Cooper in a role like this. Hope there’s more!

    I also, want a bike now…

  • Bianca

    He’s got about 5 films coming up in the next year: 2 under David O. Russel’s direction (Serena and the Abscam one..), Hangover 3 (which I do hope it’s going to be better than the second one, and it’s always a pleasure to see him as Phil), and also the one in which he replaced Jude Law after his sudden departure, along Natalie Portman. It’s definitely his time to shine!

    done. I’ve done my homework on Bradley Cooper haha