Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines
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The Place Beyond the Pines
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Screenplay by Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn
Focus Features
Rated R | 140 Minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2013

Directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), The Place Beyond the Pines stars Ryan Gosling as Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stuntman working in a death-defying traveling act.

While performing at a carnival in Schenectady, NY, Glanton reunites with ex-lover Romina (Eva Mendes) and learns that he’s the father of her newborn son.

Glanton hangs up his helmet to stay in town and provide for his child, but Romina has become involved with another man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali).

Imagine Gosling’s tight-lipped wheelman from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive joined S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and you’ve got Luke Glanton. Covered in homemade tattoos with peroxide blond hair, the grunge motorcyclist hooks up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a retired criminal, and becomes an outlaw to support his family.

Before you know it, Luke is transformed into a gun-toting motocross bandit, screaming at tellers to fill up his backpack with cash before making a quick getaway on his bike.

After a successful spree of stickups, Luke finds himself in a high-speed chase with Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Cross pursues Glanton down streets and alleyways before ripping through a cemetery, the camera shaking as Luke’s bike throttles and zigzagging between gravestones.

Luke and Avery end up in a house together, at which point The Place Beyond the Pines becomes Avery’s story. Cross has an infant son as well, and this fateful encounter will change the lives of Cross and Glanton, and their sons, forever.

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious, towering film. Cianfrance’s American tragedy is an epic about fathers and sons and a legacy of secrets and sins passed down through the generations.

An impressive supporting cast that includes Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Rose Byrne, and Harris Yulin injects The Place Beyond the Pines with a multitude of perspectives and a richness of depth.

The film is a triptych – there’s the Luke chapter, the Avery chapter, and a final section that takes place 15 years later. It’s not what you expect, and perhaps it’s too high-reaching – to so haphazardly switch focus – but much like HBO’s The Wire, Cianfrance is building something bigger and all the pieces matter.

At 140 minutes, Cianfrance’s tragic story loses steam in the home stretch. While the script remains compelling, the third section (which focuses on the teenage offspring of Ganton and Cross) isn’t nearly as riveting as the film’s first two chapters. I’m glad the director went there though – I’m glad the film is ambitious to a fault – that it dares to forgo traditional story structure and defies audience expectations.

The Place Beyond the Pines doesn’t settle for simple, convenient truths. From the music to the cinematography, to the sudden leaps in narrative “” not a single decision made by Cianfrance could be considered safe. The immensely talented filmmaker has created an unbearably tense movie about unfortunate coincidences and shocking consequences. It isn’t as heartbreaking as Blue Valentine, but The Place Beyond the Pines is every bit as bleak and unyielding in its search for authenticity.

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PS: This film contains one Star Wars quote, two Hall & Oates references, and a blink-and-you-miss-it nod to The Misfits.

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