The Sloth can’t recall any other movie so aptly named. Whiplash picks you up, smacks you round the chops and spits you out on the hard shoulder of the M25. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re in for a bumpy ride.
Andrew (Miles Teller) is a talented young drummer, newly arrived at a prestigious music academy that admits only the best. Dedicated, enthusiastic and ambitious, when he hears that the BEST of the best get handpicked to play in revered teacher Terence Fletcher’s (J.K. Simmons) elite jazz ensemble, naturally he’s hungry to be selected. So imagine his delight when, overhearing him practising alone late one night, Fletcher walks in and offers him the coveted Golden Ticket to Jazz Glory.
Unfortunately, Fletcher is no cuddly Willy Wonka. Rather, he drags the ‘best’ out of his students through verbal, physical and psychological bullying and, in Andrew, has a shiny, new, unwitting victim. Believing “there are no two words more harmful in the English language than ‘good job’” Fletcher justifies his ‘method’ as a tool in his search for artistic perfection – a musician capable of becoming another Charlie Parker, a true all-time great.
It’s an extraordinary film that twists and turns, delving deeper and deeper into the psyches of the two lead characters. First we are overwhelmed by the volatile, unpredictable Fletcher and the excruciating cruelty he unleashes. It would be simple to leave it there, but no. As we learn more about Andrew his deeper, driving ambition comes to the surface – playing till his hands literally bleed, rejecting girlfriends as a distraction from his own quest for artistic greatness. Soon it appears Fletcher and Andrew may be cut, at least in part, from the same cloth.
Grounded in outstanding performances from both leads (a special shout out to Miles Teller on the drums! Unbelievable!), who match each other in manic obsession, Whiplash’s truly unique achievement is to capture and drag you, the audience, into their visceral, hypnotic and exhilarating world of musical greatness. Like a feverish Dr Faustus you know it’s wrong but you just can’t help yourself. Head-spinningly good and The Sloth’s film of the year. Bravo!
UK release 16 Jan 2015