The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)

Genre: Crime, Drama

Directors: Derek Cianfrance

Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio , Darius Marder

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

Rating: ★★★★★

The Place beyond the Pines was a film that slipped past my radar in early 2013 but it soon became top of my “must-see” list after seeing it top many “Best of the Year lists”. It is safe to say those plaudits were spot on as many aspects of Derek Cianfrance’s release are flawless. Following a fantastically written story which has been executed equally as good, it is further topped off by a great casting ensemble. The Place beyond the Pines is a film that is totally entertaining, and leaves you reflecting days after which again adds to its brilliance.

We follow the life of Luke (Ryan Gosling) a dreamy motorcycle stunt rider, rebellious and dangerous we quickly form a bond routing for our protagonist. On a circuit tour living the carnival life he performs in the New York town of Schenectady, where he then attempts to reunite with his previous lover Romina (Eva Mendes). Secretly and unknowingly to Luke, Romina has recently given birth to his son, in an act of courage Luke makes a bold decision to quit riding and settle, providing for his new family. Obstacles soon appear for Luke as he has to fight for Romina and his child with new lover Kofi whilst his new wage earned being a mechanic is staggeringly low. Turning to a life of crime to support his family giving them a life and experience he always wanted, Luke robs a series of banks.

However his life as bank robber soon puts him on the path with ambitious and eager police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  Looking for a quick way up the ranks Avery has to battle within his department as well as out, as it is riddled with a set of corrupt superiors. Luke’s and Avery’s path of sin and trouble soon changes their lives for the worse. Forwarding into the future we then see how these past sins haunt a pair of high school boys trying to accept the legacy they inherited. As life once again proves to be more than complicated the only refuge is a place beyond the pines.

The story is one that still amazes me for many reasons, the element of realism and the outside perspective of a “ripple effect” are somewhat brilliant, but the top of the list is how well executed The Place beyond the Pines is. It left me reflecting how past actions have affected the present and even the future of my life. The way this drama unfolds is also truly brilliant, there’s at no point a dull moment and I was kept entertained and intrigued throughout. The characters and the development were flawless too, Ryan Gosling’s Luke was our hero, the true “anti-hero” in an aspect, and scenes where he played with his son and attempted to put together new cots were actually and surprisingly pleasant. Then when we switched to follow the life of Cooper’s Avery we found a new hero and events to be entertained by.

The casting ensemble was also great and deserves much applause and credit. Gosling played his dreamy Luke brilliantly likewise with Cooper and his Avery. Eva Mendes although a slightly more back-grounded character still portrayed and captured an excellent performance, with all three characters really inspiring and connecting with us. Derek Cianfrance directing was a real highlight too, with many shots being awe-inspiring whilst all scene’s emotions were really heightened to full potential and impact. On a final note and a deserved mention was the score which provided an equal amount of entertainment with Bon Iver’s The Wolves and Mark Patton’s Snow Angel becoming new favourites.

In a whole The Place beyond the Pines left me feeling very entertained and thoughtful and upon reflection the film is flawless with every aspect executed well and interacting together brilliantly. I am surprised this release even slipped past my radar and didn’t become a much talked about huge success. To say The Place beyond the Pines is a “must-see” is a given, and I can only hope that it has the same remarkable impact on everyone else.

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

Genre: Drama, Music

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Rating: ★★★★★

Inside Llewyn Davis is a film that I’ve been anticipating very much ever since I saw early advertisements and trailers and it lived right up to my expectation. Beautifully-crafted and with an inspiring story, the Coen brothers have created a reflective film that many will be able to relate to. Stunningly directed along with amazing performances from the entire all-star cast, Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a master-piece topped with a great soundtrack tipped to win Oscars.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a young folk-singer trying to establish a career as a soloist; we follow his life for a week as he attempts to navigate the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 in the harsh cold winter. Llewyn is struggling, losing hope and is being eaten away at by all the negatives in his life that for him, seem to be growing. Homeless he sleeps and crashes on various couches, some are his friends some are just mutual strangers from the industry. In a week he finds himself in a lot of places, on a lot of couches and being stared at by a lot of strangers.

The only thing Llewyn seems to have is his music and with that he grasps so tightly that it seems he pushes away all other people and relationships.  As an audience we establish such deep sympathy for him, despite obviously having a tortured soul he is a man with good intentions however he always seems to bring bad-luck and sadness wherever he goes. An angry Carey Mulligan, playing June, a fellow musician, shouts, lectures and spits telling Llewyn that the only good thing he could ever do on this planet is to not reproduce, and that sums up how the character of Llewyn comes across.

Llewyn Davis represents a lot of people, “drifters” who try and make their mark on the world, at one point he crashes on the couch of Al Cody (Adam Driver) another folk singer and just like Llewyn he has the same box full of unsold albums hidden away. Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t just showing the hard-times folk singers had in 60’s America, or people of that era in general, but it delivers a strong message to everyone who has a passion in a competitive area and is struggling to make their mark having to choose between their passion and “existing”.

The film displays an all-star cast; John Goodman plays an engrossing drug addict who only dampens the motivation and spirits of Llewyn even more on a shared journey to Chicago. Justin Timberlake plays Jim, a folk singer and the partner of June, although Llewyn is involved in an awkward love triangle with pair, they are his only “real” friends. However there is no surprise in saying Oscar Isaac is the star performer, although maybe limited due to the Coen brother’s style; he captures a great display that really connects with the audience nevertheless.

The films biggest achievement however is how it’s been beautifully crafted; both the Coen brothers and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel deserve huge plaudits. Every scene is flawless, from the very opening to the very end, each shot with talent and it looks like they spent time on every frame attempting to reach perfection. Inside Llewyn Davis has got the nomination for Best Cinematography and that is not at all surprising, however what was is the snub for The Best Picture.  The opening scene really sets the mark throughout, Llewyn is on stage singing and playing, being highlighted by an overhanging spotlight it only focuses on him and the music, perfectly executed it leaves you speechless. Many scenes are also remarkable with small elements standing out; the “car journey scene” as well as the “train journey scene” to pick my favourites, but the film in a whole is just inspiring in a number of ways.

The sound-track deserves the final mention, which plays an important role within this film. Without the score that is lyrically and acoustically remarkable, we wouldn’t have such a connection to Llweyn, it is due to the score that we encourage him and sympathise for him. Although heart-less and cold his music is the opposite, that alongside his relationship with a reoccurring cat, shows that Llewyn is “human” and can feel.

The Coen brother’s newest creation is one that I shall be re-watching time and time again due to its powerful, impacting and inspiring nature. Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a story about not giving up and holding onto your dreams and passions, that story has been executed to perfection and topped by amazing performances making it a master-piece that can’t be missed.