Writer-director Derek Cianfrance made a nice name for himself back in 2010 with his indie depression-fest "Blue Valentine." The film told the story of a collapsing married couple – mixed with flashbacks to their cute origins for maximum tragic effect – with such brutal honesty and intimacy that the MPAA almost gave it a NC-17 rating basically because it was too painful to watch.
His follow-up, "The Place Beyond the Pines," represents a massive leap for the young director. The movie still has the intimacy that made "Blue Valentine" so emotionally potent, but it’s also a big, bold crime epic, tracing its way across two generations through multiple storylines.
Its lofty aspirations come with their share of flaws, but they also come with a sense of exhilaration. To borrow a phrase from one of the film’s costars, it rides like lightning but avoids crashing like thunder.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" tells three intertwined stories of fathers and sons connected through the consequences of their choices. Cianfrance favorite Ryan Gosling stars as Luke, a star stunt motorcycle driver for a travelling carnival. While the carnival makes a routine stop in Schenectady, New York (the origins of the town’s name gives the film its title), he reconnects with a fling from the past (Eva Mendes) who, unbeknownst to Luke, is raising his child.
When he finds out about his secret son, he ditches the carnival in order to stay in Schenectady and support his son. Unfortunately, his only skill is driving motorcycles fast, an item that doesn’t impress on too many resumes. Under the tutelage of a loner mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn, continuing his streak of playing characters who don’t shower), Luke begins robbing banks, which sets him on a collision course with Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper, who doesn’t show up until about the 45-minute mark).
Their dramatic meeting, thrillingly captured by Cianfrance, leaves Avery – the son of a politician – a shaken hero, as well as our …Read more...