¨If you ride like lightning, you´re going to crash like thunder.¨
The Place Beyond the Pines is director Derek Cianfrance´s follow up to his critically acclaimed drama Blue Valentine which also happened to star Ryan Gosling. I personally never have seen Blue Valentine, so this was the first time I ever watched one of Cianfrance´s films and I have to admit that I was blown away by this epic drama. It may have its flaws, but the film is tremendously powerful and sticks with you long after the credits role. This isn’t an easy watch either as it is a 140 minute movie with a lot of character development, but it has some very entertaining and thrilling moments that make the film go by rather quickly. I never found a dull moment in this film and although it shifts gears several times each part of the film hooked me and left me wanting more. Cianfrance delivers one of the year´s best films thanks to some great performances from Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and newcomer Emory Cohen. Ryan Gosling give a similar performance to the one he gave in Drive, where his character doesn’t say much but acts really tough and cool. This time around he is an experienced motorcycle driver. This epic film can be divided in three parts, and in my opinion the first 40 minutes might be the best part of the film where Gosling absolutely shines and the film works more like a suspenseful thriller. In the second segment, the film focuses on Bradley Cooper and we get to see him play his useful charismatic self. This was probably the weakest part of the film for me, but it ends with a bang in the third segment where we are introduced to the main character´s sons 15 years later and we get to see how their family´s legacy influences their lives and decisions. Both Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan give some strong performances here. This last part might feel a bit rushed and I could have used some 20 more minutes of their story, but it was great nonetheless. I was really hooked with this movie and look forward to seeing some of Cianfrance´s previous work.
The story takes place in Schenectady, New York where Luke (Ryan Gosling) is just passing by along with the carnival as he works as one of the motorcycle drivers in the globe of death. He happens to share a connection with the small town as his former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), lives there. They exchange a short dialogue after his act and he offers to take her home. He discovers that she has had his kid but is now living with another man. Growing up without a father has affected Luke´s life so he decides he wants to be around for his kid despite Romina not wanting him around. Luke quits the carnival and decides to stay in town working for a mechanic named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). He wants to provide for his son, but the money isn’t enough so Luke is easily convinced by Robin to begin robbing banks. The two form a duo that involves Luke robbing the bank and driving off as fast as he can in his motorcycle while Robin waits for him in a truck where they can easily hideout and escape. They begin to have success, but Robin isn’t sure they should continue to do heists as often as they do. Luke decides to continue on his own and that is where his path is connected to Officer Avery´s (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious police officer who works in a department full of corrupt cops. And yes Ray Liotta plays yet another corrupt detective once again. The film shifts its focus in this second part on Avery and his relation with the police department and his family, specifically with his wife, Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and his supportive father Al (Harris Yulin). The final segment takes place 15 years later and it involves the relationship that Luke and Avery´s sons have with each other.
The film is ambitious but I think it manages to capture several issues in a very powerful away. Some of the things that the director is dealing with here seem to be the importance of a father figure (or lack thereof) in your life, and how the mistakes of our past continue to catch up with us in our generations to come. It is not an easy thing to tackle these issues in such a short time, but the film really felt like a novel and many of the images were left unsaid for the viewer to interpret on their own. The film has a very strong screenplay, some very powerful performances, and several dark dramatic turns. It is also very beautiful to look at despite the film noir look. I really found this to be a wonderful film and one I had to pay close attention to as the events unraveled before the screen. I especially liked the first 40 minutes of the film and the final 20, but I think it worked really well as a cohesive and connected story.