“The Place Beyond the Pines” goes beyond expectations

By Steph Cann

Focus Features

Directed and written by Derek Cianfrance, “The Place Beyond the Pines” fluidly depicts three overlapping perspectives of one moral story: A stunt motorcyclist-turned-bank robber, attempting to provide for his unexpected family that sprouted from a fleeting affair; a cop with a conscience, working within a corrupt detective department whose paths collide during a heroic manhunt; and two teenage sons, providing the concluding perspective, are unaware of the connected past they share because of their father’s actions.

 

 

 

 The opening sequence shows Luke, played by Ryan Gosling, coated in tattoos, leading the camera through a bustling carnival crowd. The screen is filled with bright lights, screaming teenagers and cotton candy as he strides through gaping passersby, all staring, shrieking and pointing in his direction. For the entirety of the credits, Gosling’s face is not revealed, allowing the audience’s anticipation to grow as much as those adoring fans surrounding him. As he enters the circus tent, an enormous steel metal ball is unveiled, within which Gosling and two other stuntmen circulate on motorbikes in a terrifying, but electrifying, daredevil act.

 

 The film reunites Gosling and Cianfrance after their 2010 collaboration on romantic drama, “Blue Valentine,” and it is immediately clear that Gosling is reprising his usual role: the dark, deep, delinquent type whose good intentions are poisoned by bad behavior. With bleached blonde locks, a teardrop tattoo, a leather jacket and ripped jeans, Gosling looks effortlessly rugged. Heightening the bad boy edge is his penetrating gaze — Gosling’s renowned trademark — which globally weakens females at the knees.

 

 However, there are moments, among the bank robberies, bike chases and carnival death-rides, that Gosling achieves the raw emotion to powerfully deliver the vulnerable side to his criminal character, giving an incredible overall performance. Chemistry with Romina, played by current girlfriend Eva Mendes, is subtle but passionate. The lovers share only brief moments of ecstatic connection but they still manage to be a gritty, believable couple.

 

 Bradley Cooper plays Avery, the noble policeman who brings the loose-ended Gosling to justice, thrusting him into the public eye as a national hero and chancing the course of his life entirely. Ray Liotta, known for playing corrupt characters in crime dramas, such as “Smokin’ Aces,” “Hannibal”  and “Goodfellas,” has a small, but substantial role within the section as an antagonizing crooked cop who clashes with Avery.

 

 Cooper is well suited for the role, despite originally being famed for his comical role in “The Hangover.” His recent performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” earned him critical acclaim along with an Oscar nomination, and his tortured depiction of Avery is further evidence of his growing stature in the acting world.   

 

 Running at a lengthy 140 minutes, the film evenly divides between all three stories. However, due to Gosling’s exhilarating opening followed by a portion of emotive performance by Cooper, an Oscar nominee, the final segment falls short of satisfaction. The extensive drama, unfolding over a 15-year period ends rather flatly on an anticlimactic perspective of the two sons, Jason, played by Dane DeHaan, who was noted for his lead role in last year’s “Chronicle” and AJ, played by rising young actor Emory Cohen. It’s not entirely anti-climactic but certainly an underwhelming conclusion after the star power and excitement of the earlier narratives.

 

“The Place Beyond the Pines” paints a diversely rural picture of New York State. Sweeping forests and an open road — which Jason rides through into the distance — shadows the memory of his motorcyclist father as the film draws to a close.

 

There have been murmurs that the film should ultimately be considered for this year’s Oscar nominations. But, with almost a year to wait for an award, has Gosling missed out by the skin of his teeth on a nomination despite his recent decision to retire from his thriving acting career?

 

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is currently showing at Amherst Cinema.

 

Steph Cann can be reached at [email protected]