In Damien Chazelle’s jazz drumming thriller Whiplash, The hero Andrew (Miles Teller), a jazz drummer at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City. He is hand-picked by Fletcher to join the conductor’s competing jazz band, a prestigious lot that thrives on the reputation of perfection that Fletcher has set as a standard. Soon into Andrew’s first practice, when Fletcher tosses a chair at him for not keeping perfect tempo, the rookie drummer experiences the conductor in his infamous, monstrous form.
As he struggles to sustain his place in the band, Andrew’s passion to be the next Buddy Rich is put through an unpredictable psychological gauntlet that is sponsored by Fletcher’s unforgiving attitude. With only the seed of ambition to keep him from quitting, Andrew endeavors deep into his craft.
Andrew and Fletcher are more clashing entities than typical movie characters, with Andrew in particular a product of the story’s lean design; this drummer is a raw being that breathes and bleeds for the life source of focused ambition. Teller’s performance is a demonstration of Whiplash’s enormous physicality, and the way in which the film is so charged with such slick construction.
Fletcher is a dreamer’s nightmare provoked by the celebrated tough love of high school football coaches who organize their team of budding amateurs . Simmons articulates this villain’s massive presence with a definitive accustomes nature, the versatility in his vivid intensity causing Fletcher to always command the moment, whether he is frightening his players, or in the third act, sharing a tale of abusive motivation that defines his mentality. The final stroke of brilliance from Simmons is in maintaining the depth to this character even through such conceits, allowing Chazelle’s own imperfection leeway for forgiveness.
With such a focused narrative form, Whiplash also makes the center experience of creating music pulsate; it has a consuming physicality. Cinematically-inclined musician Chazelle appropiately uses visuals to sophisticate its raw musician experience. Whiplash’s visual sense remains in awe of the music experience as well, with breathless passages like a rack focus onto Fletcher’s hands right before he conducts a piece of sheet music to life, or a shot that presents Andrew looking out into a black sea while standing on a spotlit stage, as if he and his drum set are about to enter a void.
The monument of Whiplash is its climax, a volcanic drum solo that celebrates the extraordinary experience of Chazelle’s drama, and the way in which it cinematically shares the intensity of instrumentation with ears both trained and untrained. With a growingc climax for a story about jazz band that could fire up a football team, Whiplash has its own sense of zeal. Defying the expected cinematic representations of physicality and basing its narrative solely on the struggle of a drummer’s ambition, Chazelle’s bold film affirms that the only way to silence the voice of failure is to become fearless.