Director: Derek Cainfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne.
Written by Derek Cainfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marden
Running Time: 140 mins
Release date: 12th April 2013
Some reviews are very hard to write because you don’t want to give too much away and yet you still want to dangle that carrot to get you to see it. The Place Beyond The Pines is one such thing. This is an absorbing American drama that has some excellent performances but I don’t want to give plot spoilers.
Luke is an enigmatic motorcycle stuntman for a travelling fair. Returning to a small town in New York State, he is visited by Romina, who he had a brief fling a year previously. Finding himself interested in the beautiful woman, he pays her a visit only to discover that the brief encounter had produced a baby boy called Jason. Finding out he is a father, Luke wants to do the right thing and provide for the child but after quitting the fair to stay in the town, with no job and no home, his only possession being his motorbike, Luke meets Robin, a garage owner who feeds him an idea: become a bank robber. Luke immediately puts the idea into action and he soon finds himself at the wrong end of the law, where his world will collide with Avery, an ambitious young cop with a family of his own and dreams of being something other than just a small town police officer. Events propel him but what he doesn’t know is that the future will bring another collision of Luke and Avery’s worlds.
Derek Cainfrance’s follow-up to the brilliantly dark love story Blue Valentine, is very similar in style. The strength of his direction is that you get uncomfortably close to the actors, as if you are literally leaning over the shoulders of these people and watching their conversations. The dialogue also seems improvised so there is a strong feeling of realism and like Blue Valentine, it makes it all seem much more human too. Cainfrance’s use of handheld camera works well, giving it an uneasy feeling throughout. The bank robberies were filmed in one take so it gives you that sense of adrenaline and nervous energy.
The real strong card of Cainfrance is that he gets the best out of his actors. While the women characters are let down by badly underwritten parts, Eva Mendes is fine as Romina, while Rose Byrne’s wife to Avery hardly makes an impression, this is a man’s film in the sense that the acting credits go to the lead male actors. Ryan Gosling is always solid no matter what he does and once again he gives another blinding performance of a man you know very little about yet his presence hangs over the whole film. Covered in tattoos and with bleached blonde hair, he has that air of menace throughout, not to dissimilar to that in Drive, yet actually the complete opposite.
Ben Mendelsohn is definitely an actor to watch. The Australian performer, who made such a big impression in Animal Kingdom, is quiet yet confident and makes a big impression considering the screen time. Ray Liotta manages to show up and you immediately know where the film is heading, he is that style of actor and Dane DeHann as the older Jason, is proving he is a star in the making. The only bad step as far as the performances are concerned comes from Emory Cohen as AJ, who seems to be trying too hard for that Brooklyn hard-guy persona.
Having said that, the star of this film is, surprisingly, Bradley Cooper. I didn’t think, a few years ago, that Cooper would be upping his game so much. After Silver Linings Playbook, he gives an even better performance here as Avery, the cop with moral dilemmas and excessive ambitions. It is a terrific performance and one that even manages to better Gosling, and that’s a feat in itself.
The film does suffer from a slightly contrived third act and you can guess the ending way before it comes but as a piece of cinema, it is engrossing and at 140 minutes long, it never is boring as we follow this tale of fathers and sons and how life passes down who you are from parent to child. A strong film that, for all its flaws, is still impressive and one that reminded me heavily of the cinema of the seventies, when they made great American movies. It’s not quite there but give Cianfrance another shot and he could be one of the best new directors out there.