Place Beyond the Pines is the longest film in cinema history. Wikipedia and IMDb might tell you that it’s only two hours and twenty minutes long but believe me, Place Beyond the Pines is the longest film in cinema history. Three years ago writer/director Derek Cianfrance and actor Ryan Gosling teamed up to create the memorable and enormously underrated Blue Valentine and now they’re back to try again. The problem is that instead of making one great film, they’ve put together three poor ones and have thrust upon the audience a long, mess of a film which as well as being convoluted, goes nowhere, slowly.
As advertised the film initially focuses on a motorcycle stunt rider called Luke (Gosling) who discovers that he has a one year old son with a former fling (Eva Mendes). Luke quits the road and attempts to settle and help raise his child but turns to bank robbery as a means of doing so. Considering you have Ryan Gosling on screen, robbing banks, this is all very dull. The film heats up at a crossing of paths and passing of the lead actor torch when police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) tracks the bank robbing Luke to a house in which he is holed up. This brief five minutes or so is entertaining and well done and marks a change in plot. The film then turns in to a tale of ambition and police corruption before heading into the future to attempt to tie everything together in a sort of father son retribution thriller kind of way.
I can see that what Cianfrance was trying to do was create a sort of intergenerational cradle to the grave epic drama of two families on a cycle of deceit and revenge but what it turns into is a really boring story about characters that I was barely invested in. In the earliest parts of the film it is obvious that Gosling’s Luke character is just trying to make ends meet and provide for his child using his ‘unique skill set’ and some of these scenes are emotive and entertaining but once the change of leads arrived, the film loses its only interesting or engaging character until the final half hour when Luke 2.0 shows up. The film is ambitious but so is trying to knit an aardvark using spaghetti. The results don’t merit the effort taken and you end up with a mess.
As I’ve already mentioned, the stand out scene features both Gosling and Cooper and I thought it was done wonderfully. It is tense and exciting as well as sad but unfortunately because of its nature, it produced a result which hampered the rest of the film. Gosling is an actor who pretty much everyone I know (man and woman) is in love with and he rarely if ever lets his audience down. Here I thought he was fine if unspectacular for most of the film but came alive with fury and adrenalin in the bank robbing scenes. His voice and mannerisms are great and the scenes smack of realism. I particularly liked the final bank robbing scene for all its contrasts to the ones which preceded it. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t live up to the tension, excitement and drama of these scenes and I found long periods quite dull. With each new development or introduced character, I didn’t wonder about how they were going to fit in or get excited about their arc but rather sighed because I knew it added at least another ten minutes to the run time.
I’m not Bradley Cooper’s biggest fan and I’m still shocked that he was Oscar nominated for the overrated Silver Linings Playbook but recently he’s showing signs of his talent which were hidden in the likes of The Hangover movies. Here he is fine and has his moments where he’s more than fine but I was rarely interested in his character. I did think he was very good late on though. Eva Mendes is another actor who has rarely impressed me but is beginning to show signs of previously un-seen depth. My girlfriend thought she was dreadful (but that might have something to do with who her boyfriend is) while I thought she was quite good. She lacked the glamour with which she is generally associated and it definitely worked in her favour so that we can see the actress underneath the looks. The standout actor for me was Dane DeHaan who is turning into a very fine actor indeed. At first I was just glad to see that he had a cameo but fortunately his role turns in to a large one and he is excellent in it.
I can’t fault the way Place Beyond the Pines looks. The direction and cinematography are both great and I liked its whole toned down, unpretentious feel. The Globe of Death shots are incredible and some of the stunt riding is great too. Cianfrance captures a real sense of speed and danger as Gosling shoots through the streets. The soundtrack also works well and fits but doesn’t stand out. Overall I thought the film was let down by flabby plotting and too much story. There are good moments but they are few and far between and in-between them are dull areas which seem to begin and then take an age to end. One is left hanging for an ending on several occasions and still comes away with a scrappy one which ends a movie which I’ll be in no hurry to return to.
- The character of Avery Cross was written for Bradley Cooper.
- Ryan Gosling discussed his wish to rob a bank with director Cianfrance while working together on Blue Valentine. Cianfrance just happened to be working on this script at the time.
- Greta Gerwig was originally cast but pulled out due to scheduling conflicts.