From the opening shot of The Place Beyond The Pines, it will have you hooked. Simply following Ryan Gosling’s character, Luke, from his trailer, through a fairground, into a marquee, on to his motorcycle and then driving into a Globe of Death seems almost hypnotic. The shot stretches close to three and a half minutes long and how it manages to holds an audience’s attention is reminiscent of the classic opening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil in which we see a bomb being planted in the boot of a car which then drives off up the street and similarly extended tracking shot in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas in which Ray Liotta’s character enters the Copacabana club. These types of shots are extremely effective in raising the tension of a scene as their sheer length allows the world of the film to overwhelm an audience and leave them not wanting to miss a thing. A technique Quentin Tarantino is famous for using.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) as he covers Romina’s (Eva Mendes) tears.
The film stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper, it also co-stars Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Bruce Greenwood and Dane DeHaan. This is Derek Cianfrance’s second film after the success of his first feature length Blue Valentine, (also starring Ryan Gosling). The film’s structure is in three clear parts and deals with the ever relevant subjects of fatherhood and cause and effect. The three sections are all beautifully and poetically linked in showing how certain actions carry their consequences, as we see the damage travel down like dominoes across fifteen years and a generation.
Gosling plays the character of Luke Glanton, that goes on to become a law breaker and early in the film we share a moment with him as he reflects in a church at his son Jason’s christening. Until now he’s been a cool, untouchable loner, but we see him sat alone as he begins to cry. Watching a man cry in a film holds a certain power and can be an extremely effective tool in character development. We don’t see this side of Luke again throughout the film but from this point on we have seen him more deeply than any of the other characters do. A tool I feel may have lost its impact in the latest Star Trek film Into Darkness, as almost every male characters cries at some point.
Bradley Cooper’s cop character, Avery Cross, suffers a tremendous episode of guilt following his run in with Luke and it is with him that we, as an audience, go through some of the most excruciating moments in the film. For example whilst recovering in hospital a senior officer comes in to enquire about the incident he had been involved with Luke. After trying to dodge some very simple questions and asking why his superior was even concerned with the matter, he sheepishly lies and then goes on to try and live with the consequences. Furthermore later in the film Ray Liotta’s characters turns up at his house and enters his home in a very intrusive manner. We can see Avery’s wife painfully trying to cope with the situation where she is made powerless. Another amazingly powerful aspect of this scene is how many times Avery is referred to as a “hero”, only to add to his guilt, as he is called it eight times in that scene alone.
The film is full of brilliant little story arcs which, whether you notice or not, add to the authenticity of the narrative and gives the film life. For example in the final act of the film Jason is eating an apple in the school cafeteria when we learn earlier in the film that as a baby he, “really likes apples” that his mother has to chew up for him. Similarly how Luke puts his sunglasses on Jason as a baby and then later in the film when he is grown up, we see him wearing them once again serving almost as a full circle. Likewise Luke expresses that he wants to be the first person to give his son Jason ice cream, so that he would see his face every time he ate it, then in the third act when Jason is talking to his step father about Luke he is eating ice cream. These arcs weave throughout the film linking the character and connecting the story perfectly.
Furthermore Mike Patton’s score accompanies the film brilliantly. Its eerie tones and choral elements are haunting and enhance certain scenes tremendously in echoing the unsettling narrative. However as its length may be enough to turn certain people away from this film, I would highly recommend allowing it to engulf you. Cianfrance himself, to secure financing for the film had to reduce his 158 page script down to 120 to secure the deal. After increasing the margins and reducing the font size, he was down to the required amount of pages. So it seems vital that this film needs to be the length that it is. It is a sublimely told, beautifully acted and poetically touching story which stays with for a very long time after the credits roll.
“If you ride like lightening you’re going to crash like thunder.” – Robin