I guess you can see where the confusion has come from–just take a look at the trailer. Heavy on Ryan Gosling, brooding in ragged denim and fairground tatts, zazzing around upstate New York, brooding a bit more, robbing a bank… He’s lean, he’s mean, he’s got a chin like a plowshare.
Of course, you should take the sales pitch of any trailer with a large handful of salt. Make it a double handful in the case of The Place Beyond The Pines. Because what we have here is yer actual multigenerational drama, complete with police corruption, a love that will not die, and how a violent act can echo down the years and spark up again when you least expect it.
Let’s start with the Gosling, as that’s how the film begins: with a bravura five-minute shot tracking him through a fairground to the Globe Of Death ride that he rules with an almost unthinking cool. Right from the start, the comparisons with Drive start to unravel. The Driver of Nicholas Winding Refn’s film is an emotionless analogue. Stunt rider Luke wears his heart on his sleeve. The discovery that he has a son leads him to make bad and violent decisions, but they come from a place of love. He wants a family and a life, but can’t quite figure out how to get it. Hence the bank robberies. If he can’t be there for his ex-girlfriend and little boy, then he can at least provide for them.
But, as we all know, Readership, crime doesn’t pay. And just when you least expect it, something awful happens, and the focus shifts. Luke is out of the picture, and we’re in the world of Avery Cross, hero cop and, played with nervous energy by Bradley Cooper, a man who finds his integrity questioned at every turn, and his life entangled with Luke’s in unexpected way.
Another shift, and it’s fifteen years later. The connection between Luke and Avery deepens, as their two sons meet and find that the hidden history between them has the power to change their lives forever.
The Place Beyond The Pines has a scale and scope that’s rare in Hollywood films these days. It’s happy to tease out cross-connections between events that happen months, sometimes years apart. As a thoughtful treatise on notions of fate, consequence and way history always repeats itself, it works on a raft of different levels. It’s thrilling, moving and powerful. The standouts in an excellent cast are Bradley Cooper, who’s moving away from the slick smoothie role that he initially made his own into parts with a few more angles and rough patches, and Dale DeHaan, who gives Luke’s son Jason the right mix of vulnerability and barely contained fury.
I walked into this film with few expectations, and left nearly three hours later with my head spinning. The Place Beyond The Pines has one of the most expertly crafted scripts that I’ve seen in a long time, based around the boldest of conceits; the events that change our lives can be over in the time it takes to pull a trigger, yet echo down the years. Avery and Luke are never seen on camera together, and share one tiny scene. Yet they are bound by blood, and the need to do the right thing whatever the consequences. This is solid, inventive cinema that I urge you to find the time to see. As a precursor to Big Dumb Movie Season, The Place Beyond The Pines provides serious intellectual sustenance. Make a place in your schedule for it.