Review: The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines - Credit: Archant

This story of a fairground motorbike stunt rider turned bank robber doesn't give you what you expect or want and is surprisingly long at 140 minutes but – apart from maybe adding one last scene at the end and different music for the closing credits – I wouldn't have changed a moment of it.

Last year Ryan Gosling was much acclaimed for his taciturn role as a stunt/getaway driver in Drive. Drive was all gleaming shallowness, a billboard where a movie should have been and his performance was a furious piece of anti-emoting, a big show of doing nothing. His character here, Luke, has a fag constantly lodged in the corner of his mouth and has been disfigured by some atrocious tattoos. He resembles the nameless driver of the previous film in every aspect except he is a character not an icon.

At the start of the film he discovers that he is a father after a one-night stand with Eva Mendes. Determined not to be the absent, deadbeat figure his father was, he gives up his itinerant lifestyle and stays around trying to support the child. In the process he hooks up with a mechanic, played by the superb Ben Mendelsohn, who offers him an illegal way of earning money.

Any more than that I cannot say because the film develops in ways that are always bold and unexpected. In his previous film, the marital break-up drama Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfranco showed that he could take a thespian slanging match and turn it into real cinema. Here he goes much further though; you'd hope that this marks the emergence of a major film talent.

He doesn't pummel the audience with his technique but he's got a few showstoppers; the robbery scenes shot with handheld cameras are exhilarating. If the film has a flaw it's that the first hour has a buzz that it can't sustain for the whole running length.

The plot is a basic generational tragedy but the film skilfully covers up most of the mousetrap mechanics of melodrama. Early on Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark is heard on the soundtrack and The Place Beyond The Pines has the virtues of a really great Springsteen song – it addresses blue collar characters and concerns honestly but with a mythic sweep; it is epic yet human.

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Director: Derek Cianfranco

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes, Harris Yulin and Ray Liotta

Length: 140 mins