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