Never heard of Derek Cianfrance before this, even with his popular "Blue Valentine". Some people consider "The Place Beyond the Pines" as (arguably) one of the earliest Oscar contenders, although for me it's a pure exaggeration. This is a good film, so good that I was about to give it my precious 4.5 stars before I finally rethink about it. But, of course, this is a rich-valued gem everyone should see this year.
SYNOPSIS > Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt with an incredible riding skill, has never imagined that his former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), was giving birth to his son. Luke tried to provide for his son by finding a new job. He met Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) and then they committed to rob a bank. Avery (Bradley Cooper), a new cop in town, was in charge that day when Luke robbed a bank alone. Destiny unites them, as Avery revealed corruption in the body of his own department and the haunt of their past was dragged far to the future, to their next generation.
REVIEW > It is quite surprising that "The Place Beyond the Pines" talks more than just a motorcycle stunt who provided for his family by robbing bank. It is way more thoughtful than that. It is a comprehensive conclusion about several moral things we analogously meet in our life. We'll see love, struggle, moral dilemma, revenge, and even karma, that patiently—and humbly—inspire us with good values. Some might say that this film is merely combined from three different fragments put together in one storyline. Regarding to the narrative structure, I partially agree with that.
While it provides us with various moral lessons, in the other hand it's like "The Place Beyond the Pines" tries to cover too many thoughts. When I was thinking that I had already got the point of the film, in the third part it suddenly expanded itself to a broader theme. I found that some important characters developments failed, and my brain became too full to be inspired by more thoughts. I had to rethink if I got the wrong idea of the story. This might be the reason of why I took back my half-star before giving it my 4.5-star rate, LOL. Finally "The Place Beyond the Pines" turns into a film you can conclude in many different ways. It's not multi-interpretive, it just takes more than one sentence to describe.
The good thing is, "The Place Beyond the Pines" was brilliantly and beautifully shot. Great cinematography. I really enjoyed how it is visualized, how it perfectly characterizes its main characters. "The Place Beyond the Pines" outstandingly transfers its rich values via meaningful shots instead of massive dialogues. The camera movement (like in the opening scene, the camera shot Luke from his back and followed him into the stunt arena) were simple but powerful. And, somehow, it successfully balances my discomfort in watching the "extended plot".
And I had to give my appreciation to the casts, especially Ryan Gosling. The scene when he cried seeing his son was baptized in the church, oh I was totally melted. His character was a bit similar to his in "Drive", but for me, in "The Place Beyond the Pines" he was bolder. Bradley Cooper played nicely, but the transition between the second and the third act got him undeveloped well—and honestly I was a bit shocked by how he could "transform" that way. The two young actors, Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan, were nice, too. I didn't get a good comprehension from Eva Mendes' character (or Mahershala Ali who I think should have got enough attention, too), and short performance by Ray Liotta (and Ben Mendelsohn) was very convincing.
CONCLUSION > This is, again, a rich-valued and morally-intriguing story of many people from many different backgrounds. Derek Cianfrance has beautifully—but not briefly—wrapped them all into an enjoyable film, even beyond its 140-minute duration. A little bit anticlimax in the ending, but it's still a comprehensive package of life value blends with great cinematography and powerful acting. This year's must-watch drama.
▲ Great cinematography, rich moral value, powerful acting by the cast
▼ The story weakens in the third act, a bit anticlimax in the ending
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES | COUNTRY US YEAR 2012 RATING Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference RUNTIME 140 min GENRE Crime, Drama CAST Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen WRITER Derek Cianfrance & Ben Coccio (story & screenplay), Darius Marder (screenplay) DIRECTOR Derek Cianfrance MORE INFO