Jack Forman – Mustangs Ahead
“Whiplash” (2014) is a movie that expands on the reality all champions lead. It’s a story about a man following his dreams and eventually achieving them. It sounds sappy and feel-good, but isn’t at all presented that way.
The simplest way to describe the complex film “Whiplash” is that it is a story of will power and dedication that is still not enough. It’s a movie that surprises yet provides a nostalgic feeling of overcoming obstacles to achieve goals or dreams, whether it’s in a competitive discipline or not.
The start of the movie is the classic “hero’s journey.” Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) has exceptional drumming skills and gets accepted into Shafer University, a world-renowned music school. He sets off on his journey in hopes of becoming the greatest drummer the world has ever seen.
At the beginning, although he’s a great talent, he’s on a “B team” and his goal is to get into the big band. This goal is obvious but Fletcher (JK Simmons), the band conductor, tests that motivation and attempts to push him.
Simmons excels in his role. He’s a teacher who battles the doubt that Miles puts onto himself while simultaneously dominating him into a shell. Fletcher challenges Neiman to become a great talent or hit a brick wall and never overcome the odds that only true champions are can get over.
In Fletcher’s original meeting with Neiman, he tries to make him feel uneasy but then shows a good side. He makes Neiman feel like he’s made it and tells him to “try his best,” but Fletcher quickly shows that trying isn’t enough.
After this point, he never lets off the gas pedal and never gives Andrew the chance to breathe. He mentally destroys him by explaining why he’s worthless and why he doesn’t deserve the opportunities given to him.
Fletcher uses his authority to his fullest by ostracizing Neiman from the rest of the band and making him feel like he’s the problem. Destroying Neiman’s confidence is a personal test to see if he uses it as motivation or quits, a test of true champions.
Each camera shot is purposefully over Neiman to make Fletcher look as if he’s this domineering figure who isn’t going to give Andrew a single shred of a compliment while drowning his confidence at every turn. The angle gives the audience, as well as the character, a sense of insecurity. It really makes the audience respect Fletcher as a character.
The film’s music, usually light-hearted jazz, intensifies the atmosphere. This jazz contrasts to the dark reality Andrew is wading through and allows the audience to breathe. The score is produced by the in-film band, which gives it an authenticity.
It’s in this final act of the film the audience realizes the passion and love Fletcher has for Andrew. It’s a metaphor for many facets of life and is why “Whiplash” is such an amazing film.