It's been a few years since Miles Teller made his first impression on the world with his brilliant performance as a young man dealing with immense guilt in Project X, sorry, Rabbit Hole, but since then it's not that Teller has been coasting as much as he has built an incredibly sturdy foundation of solid films to present himself as an actor who deserves to be in demand, but nothing has come close to his bench breakdown next to Nicole Kidman, until Whiplash. Teller plays Andrew, a 19-year-old drummer who we meet as he practices in a room, doors open, until JK Simmons' Fletcher walks in, asks him why he stopped, then after Andrew picks up to play again asks why his response to 'why did you stop' was to start again. These two are going to be such a fun pair to watch.
Until Andrew is chosen by Fletcher to join his big jazz band to rehearse, and suddenly launches into a vulgar, aggressive, pin-point hurtful tirade against a brass player to remind everyone of their value, or to put the fear of Fletcher into them, or to make everyone focus more on the determination of being a better musician by having someone tell them they're not good enough ever. Andrew, as it turns out, is just never good enough. He practices pieces for days until the skin on his hands rip and tear, until his sticks and snare are covered in blood, but never will he be considered worthy.
Whiplash is an incredible piece of work. Adrenaline-fuelled and brutal as anything, rehearsal scenes are full of stomach-wrenching shots of Simmons' Fletcher watching, waiting to pounce, and Teller's Andrew trying his darndest to just get it right, but it always will end in violence and aggression. A foregone conclusion. No matter how many almost-happy moments the two have, small conversations, the grander scheme is the hard riding mentor never ever letting up, and using the happy beats as perfect ammunition to cut deeper with barbs. Simmons' ability to make every single word in a tirade slash the gut of the audience as much as Andrew is amazing, and his brief vulnerable moments never seem out of place, only serving to make the entire film somehow five shades more powerful than it is prior to any of those beats, whilst Miles Teller in a less showy role, with less piercing dialogue, has never been better. Ever. This is an acting masterclass from the big to the small, both performances are note-perfect, as is the entire film.
By the time the climax rolls around, a sequence that enraptures everybody in the audience for the entire 15 minute scene with relative ease, Whiplash put itself neatly into the upper echelon of cinema, an accomplished film somehow shot in just over 2 weeks by a first time feature director in Damien Chazelle, who also wrote the film partially autobiographically, which can explain the tinier details dotted in the film, but pure talent explains how a film like this can ever exist. This is incredible cinema, this is what film is about, and this is something you should all demand to see post-haste. Perfection. Glorious, breathless, cinematic perfection.