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Film Review – The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

With the beginning of another week comes another reader requested review of a hidden gem that you can watch on Netflix right now, The Place Beyond the Pines!  Upon its release in 2012, The Place Beyond the Pines was heralded as a gritty, tense film that discusses deep themes.  But what truly makes this film a must-see?  The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

The Place Beyond the Pines is directed by Derek Cianfrance and contains an amazing cast of actors that includes Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, and Dane DeHaan.

Luke Glanton (Gosling) is a motorcyclist in the circus that quickly learns that he’s a father.  In an attempt to provide for his son and his mother (Mendes), Luke quits the circus and stays in town to find work.  However, when the line of work he finds isn’t lucrative enough, he then turns to a life of crime by robbing banks.  Quickly, a hot-shot local cop (Cooper) gets on his tail.  From there, the families of each man becomes intertwined in ways that one never thought was possible.

Background

The Place Beyond the Pines received an Oscar-friendly initial release at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.  However, the film was strangely kepy from the public eye until its theatrical release in March of the next year.

But that’s not what you want to hear about, you definitely want to hear about Ryan Gosling’s abs.

For the opening of the film, Derek Cianfrance wanted to have a tracking shot a la Touch of Evil.  However, there were many problems during shooting of the film because extras during this tracking shot kept starring at Gosling’s abs as he walked by them.  In order to fix the problem, Cianfrance had assistant directors wear Dr. Seuss hats in the foreground so that people wouldn’t stare at either Gosling’s eight pack or the camera.

The magic of filmmaking never ceases to amaze me.

What I Liked

The Place Beyond the Pines is unbelievably ambitious.

Without going into spoiler territory, the film has three distinct stories that it tells.  While this is a pretty long film (about two and a half hours), every single second is utilized perfectly,  Shockingly, Derek Cianfrance gives ample time to each story in order for each to have enough room to flourish and convey its thematic elements.

Within this structure is an unorthodox display of each character.  Three different people can watch this movie and have three different ideas about who ends up being the main character.  This concept isn’t a bad thing either.  In fact, it may be the best trait of the film.  We get to see many different characters have distinct arcs that are better than main characters in most other movies.  The Place Beyond the Pines is truly an ensemble movie.  Filled with great performances across the board, it’s clear that the focus of this film is on its discussion of timeless themes.

It’s clear from the first few minutes of this film that there’s a focus on character over everything else.  The story may seem bold and even somewhat epic, but Cianfrance never loses sight of the heart of the story.

What I Liked…Continued

However, with all this discussion of an ensemble movie, Ryan Gosling turns in a magnetic performance as Luke Glanton.  His character is incredibly complex.  You see his insane tattoos and rough exterior and expect him to be as tough as nails on the inside.  While he’s absolutely rugged and dangerous, there’s also a warped sense of vulnerability.

It’s a fine line to be able to display harsh attitudes both inside and out yet show a desire to be more sensitive.  Gosling’s character wants to be a good guy and take care of his son in the best way possible.  Unfortunately, his circumstances don’t allow him to do so without resorting to a life of crime.

He’s also one of those interesting characters that you have more questions about than answers.  Why did he join the circus?  How did he meet Eva Mendes’ character?  There’s a certain cloud of mystery that surrounds him, making for a fascinating piece within The Place Beyond the Pines.

What I Liked…Continued…Continued

But what really sets the movie apart from others is its discussion of its themes.  In essence, The Place Beyond the Pines is an exploration into how different styles of parenting and circumstances end up affecting those around them, especially children.  When coupled with the film’s fascinating story structure, there’s a mirror-like quality to The Place Beyond the Pines that is unlike 99% of films.

But the film doesn’t stop there.  It even manages to throw in ideas of fate and class relations without ever feeling narratively stifled.  Each theme has plenty of room to be able to express itself wholly.

However, the best quality of these themes is undoubtedly the way they are expressed through assured direction from Derek Cianfrance.  Cianfrance simply tells the story as the script intended.  There’s nothing preachy or in your face about The Place Beyond the Pines.  It’s merely a stark, yet someone hopeful look into the lives of a few individuals.

Conclusion

The Place Beyond the Pines does not receive enough credit for its merits.  This caustic, imaginative story manages to weave a litany of storylines and character motives without ever feeling overstuffed.  In a bizarre way, this is one of the best discussions of fatherhood in film in quite some time.  It gets an A.  Aside from some very minor issues, The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie that you absolutely need to find two and a half hours out of your day to watch.

Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on The Place Beyond the Pines?  What films do you want reviewed?  Comment down below!

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What movie topic should I discuss next?  Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

12 Responses

  1. Tamara says:

    Forgot about this great movie, thanks for reminder and beautiful review! I’ll have to watch it again, definately.

  2. Steve says:

    I love this film. I’ve been a big fan since it hit theaters and even bought the DVD. It’s a great story (or set of stories) well told and with a down to earth feel that garners it credibility that many films can only strive for.

    • Nick Kush says:

      It’s best quality is that it’s just so different. Ever since it came out I’ve been incredibly excited for every Derek Cianfrance movie!

  3. An incredibly well-written and insightful review, Nick. I haven’t seen this film, but it’s now definitely on my list!

  4. You’ve talked me into it! “The Place Beyond the Pines” is cued up on Netflix for tomorrow evening.

  5. Ian says:

    I really liked this film too! I feel like not enough people know about it, which is surprising considering the cast, so i’m glad to see your review. The way it feels sort of like three different movies rolled into one is fascinating.

    • Nick Kush says:

      It’s definitely a sleeper hit! It may have something to do with the fact that it was an “Oscar-worthy” film released in the early parts of the year. Who knows!

  6. one of my favourites! love the epic scale of its narrative. nice review!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Glad we agree! I actually just watched this for the first time over the weekend and was absolutely blown away

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