Genre: Crime, Drama
UK Release Date: 12th April 2013
Runtime: 140 minutes
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Dane DeHaan
Synopsis: Two men have their lives thrown together by one’s life of crime and discover links and similarities that reverberate into the future.
Meandering through multiple generations to examine the knock-on effects of crime and punishment, Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines is certainly ambitious. Except for a few baffling decisions, the risk appears to pay off.
Ryan Gosling plays Luke – a motorcycle stuntman who discovers he has fathered a son with an old flame (Eva Mendes). Deciding to support the child, he starts robbing banks. This is a path that thrusts him into the life of rookie cop Bradley Cooper.
Initially at least, The Place Beyond the Pines is a diptych focusing on the lives of Cooper and Gosling. Their paths eventually cross in a blaze of tightly choreographed action sequences and brutal violence that recall previous Gosling vehicle Drive. Both actors are firing on every cylinder here and, surprisingly, it is actually Bradley Cooper who comes out on top with a beautifully nuanced performance.
The true strength is the work of Derek Cianfrance. His script fizzes with profundity, humour and a fair dose of action. Throughout the meandering story, The Place Beyond the Pines is lifted by strong writing and by Cianfrance’s remarkable directorial skill.
One sequence, in which Gosling is pursued on his motorbike by the police after a botched robbery is directed with such claustrophobia and tension that it proves to be one of the most exciting cinematic moments of the year so far. As the robbery escalates, Gosling’s voice breaks in panic and this really provides a human anchor for the action-packed scene that follows.
Unfortunately, despite the strong work of Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne as the women caught up in the male warring, both are underused by Cianfrance. The Place Beyond the Pines is a meditation on masculinity and this works to the detriment of its female characters.
When both Gosling and Cooper have had their respective segments, the film flashes forward to a funeral scene. This would’ve provided a poignant end to a magnificent film. However, The Place Beyond the Pines launches into a 30 minute meditation on how the actions of parents affect their children that, despite good work from Dane DeHaan proves to be a boring, lacklustre way to end what could’ve been brilliant.
It’s a shame. For all of its successes, The Place Beyond the Pines proves to be a film shot down by its own ambition.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.