The Place Beyond The Pines

place beyond the pinesReleased: 2013
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper

Ambitious, beautiful and thoroughly engaging


I live in a relatively small town and have only two local cinemas. One is a Vue where the local parking is expensive, the other is a Cineworld with free parking and the opportunity to use an unlimited card. Guess which one I always use? The only problem is that it’s a small cinema and doesn’t always get every major release. When films are released they very often only stay on for a week or two. I don’t blame the company, they have to do what’s most profitable for them but it can be frustrating. I was convinced that I had lost my chance to see The Place Beyond The Pines but thankfully the film’s success and local interest means that it is currently showing. I hadn’t missed out.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a fairground motorcycle stunt rider, who discovers that an old flame has given birth to his son. In an attempt to do the right thing and support his child Luke turns to crime and becomes a bank robber. His path crosses with rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper) and their encounter has ramifications for years to come.

This is a wide-ranging, ambitious story which both looks and sounds beautiful on the big screen. The “place beyond (or behind) the pines is the Mohawk term for the film’s setting Schenectady, the New York town where the film is set, the title is particularly apt as the setting is so integral to the plot. The scenery is breath-taking and envelops both the characters and the audience.

The acting is fabulous – both Gosling and Cooper are at the top of their games here and they are emerging as two of the most impressive talents in Hollywood at the moment. I hope they both continue to make such interesting choices in their roles over the coming few years – both elicited emotional responses with their quiet but perfect performances. Ray Liotta’s role could almost be classed as a cameo it’s so short but it’s hugely important and he plays the corrupt cop with real menace. Both Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne are good but slightly sidelined in their love interest roles – particularly Byrne, but that doesn’t hugely grate. This is a film about men trying and failing to do the right thing and the relationships between fathers and sons.

While I can’t fault the ambition and scope of the film, there are a couple of problems with the film. It’s slightly over long and I wasn’t as engaged with the third act as the first two. The film loses its way a tiny bit when it expands to include the stories of Luke and Avery’s teenage sons. It’s a very minor loss of focus however and it feels a little mean to make the criticism when much of the film is so absorbing and engaging.

The soundtrack, which included Bruce Springsteen, The Cryin’ Shames and fabulous original music by Mike Patton, is perfect. Several times during the film I was struck by just how great the film sounded – both the music and the roaring motorbikes added to the atmosphere.

I’ve not been to a film showing in a multiplex where the audience was so engaged and so quiet. At moments it seemed like there was collective breath-holding and I’m sure we all gasped in unison.

I’m not sure if The Place Beyond The Pines is the best film I’ve seen this year, there are some problems, but it’s surely one of the most intelligent, engrossing and ambitious. Thank goodness it made it to my local cinema.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Speak Your Mind