Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Ben Mendehlson, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Emory Cohen, Harris Yulin
Running time: 140mins
The lowdown: Ryan Gosling reteams with Blue Valentine director Cianfrance for a sprawling, ambitious crime story that packs an unexpected emotional wallop. Gosling is a funfair motorbike stunt rider, turning to crime to care for one-time fling Eva Mendes and the son she had by him, while joint lead Bradley Cooper is a rookie cop facing his own battles. Fathers and sons, atonement for past wrongs and the inevitability of history repeating itself across generations is all here in a bold and daring movie likely to end up on a lot of Top 10 of the year lists.
The full verdict: The Place Beyond The Pines opens on Ryan Gosling’s toned, 3% body fat six pack, but his tattooed Luke Ganton is even more dangerous than the violent guardian angel he played in Drive.
Inarticulate and quick to temper, Ganton is clearly bad news for waitress Romina (Mendes), the mother to his infant son, now hooked up with a much better man (Ali).
Yet, writer/director Cianfrance devotes the first hour of The Place Beyond The Pines to Luke, employing a leisurely pace to get under the skin of a man who is a god when riding his stunt bike but unable to join normal society, hooking up with oddball mechanic Robin (Animal Kingdom’s Mendehlson) for a partner-in-crime.
A refusal to be rushed (sections of the movie feel like a Scandinavian crime series played out in English) allows Gosling’s sad-eyed sociopath to develop fully; tender scenes with Romina and their son interspersed with the violent bank robberies that give Luke adrenalin rushes he feeds on while funding desperate dreams of regular family life.
But, clearly conscious this could all come across as Drive II, Cianfrance broadens his canvas to include Bradley Cooper’s Avery Cross, an idealist who forsook a lucrative law career to become a rookie beat cop, much to the chagrin of his wife (Byrne).
The film hurls Cross into the mix with an audacious plot move, the first of a many that risk throwing the movie off-balance but which are handled with a skill Tarantino, Nolan and other tricksy storytellers would envy.
Despite a traditional three act structure, these daring story shifts deepen and enrich moments that have gone before, delivering a series of spine-tingling moments.
The joint top-billed Cooper is the revelation here. For those who found his performance in Silver Linings Playbook too self-conscious, he excels here as Cross, a man torn between conscience and ambition, whose life becomes inextricably entwined with Ganton’s.
Despite events unfolding largely in the ‘burb of Schenectady, New York (the Place of the title), Cianfrance employs an epic sweep to his movie, including police corruption (and a particularly terrifying turn from Ray Liotta) and political machinations in a story that spans over a decade, period clues subtly dropped into the set design and dialogue.
But, the real impact comes from the personal stories, particularly as earlier events earlier echo in the third act, the passage of time offering no escape for characters’ past misdeeds.
Clearly influenced by the character driven thrillers of 1970s American cinema, The Place Beyond The Pines allows supporting actors Byrne, Mendes, Ali, plus Harris Yulin as Cooper’s quietly overbearing father and Dane DeHaan as an innocent paying for Gosling crimes a chance to breathe, while never losing focus of the main players.
And Cianfrance places himself alongside Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Altman and other masters of storytelling on a grand scale.
This review originally published on skymovies.com