Whiplash stars the relatively unknown (to me, at least) Miles Teller as Andrew, a student who loves drumming. Schaffer University music bod Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons) also loves his drumming, as he spots the lad’s talent at the start of the film and invites him to join his class, but if he wants to be in it, he needs to be present, on the dot for 6am the next morning…
As Debbie Allen said in a certain film, as dance teacher Lydia Grant, “Fame costs, and right here’s where you start paying”. Imagine the same happening here – if you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, then oooh, dedication’s what you need… no, that’s Roy Castle on Record Breakers… But it’s all the same thing as you’ve got a tough row to hoe if you want to make it to competition level.
To say Fletcher is a hard taskmaster is an understatement, demanding the very best from his students whilst thinking nothing of belittling them if he wants them to leave the class forever, since he accuses an overweight member of concentrating too much on a Happy Meal than being in tune, and not to look at the floor, whilst feeling sorry for himself, because “There’s no Mars bar down there”.
In addition to the two powerhouse leads, the cast also includes Glee‘s Melissa Benoist as Nicole, the girl who works behind the popcorn counter at the cinema and a new romantic interest for Andrew, plus Paul Reiser as Andrew’s father, Jim, and there’s at least one point in this film where Reiser could pass for grey-haired warmonger Tony Blair.
And best supporting actor goes to JK Simmons’ arm muscles, for supporting his arm. Simmons has always had impossible arm muscles. Seriously, since he has a long and varied career, everyone will have their favourite TV or film performance of his. For me, it’s as inmate Vern Schillinger in tough prison drama Oz. That programme finished in 2003 and I still miss it. At least we get some great performances from him on film, and this one rightly earned him the Best Supporting Actor award for both Oscar and BAFTA, and there were many other awards won by this movie.
I’d never heard of Damien Chazelle before, but he’s clearly a director who really knows his subject and also how to cut between the scenes at the right moment, to build up tension and to retain your interest throughout – especially important since if someone was to invite you to watch a film that’s all about drumming, your first response would no doubt be: “Pardon”?
Whiplash takes its name from a jazz song by Hank Levy, and the film, itself, makes for an engaging movie, but I was disappointed with the ending. I’ll explain my reasons surrounded with a spoiler tag, and I’ll also include a question from early in the film for anyone who has seen it:
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and you’d be surprised if it was not a top-notch transfer for a brand new film, meaning you can almost feel the spittle flying out of the screen and onto your face, as Fletcher screams at Andrew for the umpteenth time. I watched this on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and while it’s not a special FX movie, in a way… it sort-of it, as the drums carry a special weight all of their own. Yes, there’s not much in the way of split-surround sounds that I can remember, but what is here sounds fantastic.
The extras are as follows:
- Whiplash short film (9:28): The short film which led to the main movie being made, and which tightens everything down to its very core. JK Simmons is there as Fletcher, and it’s also written and directed by Damien Chazelle, but Andrew’s part is played by Johnny Simmons (no relation to JK, that I know of). This piece contains with optional commentary from the director and also a number of other crew members.
- Fletcher At Home (1:30): A brief deleted scene, again with optional commentary from Chazelle and another, unnamed crew member – presumably one from the aforementioned commentary, but their voices do sound very similar.
- An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival (7:50): An evening is a long time and presumably the audience have just watched Whiplash prior to doing a Q&A with Damien Chazelle, J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, but with just a few questions answered by the trio, invigilated by Kerri Carddock, Director of Programming for the Toronto International Film Festival, this is a very short evening. I would’ve liked many more questions to be answered, here, especially since this is one of my favourite kind of extras – something that’ll never happen again as it was recorded at the time.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:10): In the original 2.35:1 ratio.
- Timekeepers (42:56): The director talks about how he got into drumming along with a number of famous drummers including Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Doane Perry (Jethro Tull), Peter Erskine (Weather Report), Gregg Bissonette (Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band), Wally Ingram (Timbuk3) and Gina Schock (Go-Gos). If you want to learn a lot about the main instrument featured in this movie, this one is where they ‘drum’ up the business…. (sorry).
- Audio Commentary: with J.K. Simmons and director Damien Chazelle.
- Audio descriptive track: does what it says on the tin.
There are subtitles and languages in a fair few apiece, all listed at the bottom of the review.
The menu, surprisingly, is static and silent – just a shot of Miles Teller sat as his drumkit, as per the cover. Chapters are slightly more than the usual amount you get on most discs. There are 16, whereas a lot of distributors skimp on a mere 12.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: June 8th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, all non-English languages vary betwween DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, Czech, French, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Brazillian Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish.
Commentary Subtitles: English, Dutch, French, Portuguese
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Damien Chazelle
Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster and Michel Litvak
Screenplay: Damien Chazelle
Music: Justin Hurwitz
Andrew: Miles Teller
Fletcher: JK Simmons
Jim: Paul Reiser
Nicole: Melissa Benoist
Ryan: Austin Stowell
Carl: Nate Lang
Uncle Frank: Chris Mulkey
Mr Kramer: Damon Gupton
Aunt Emma: Suanne Spoke
Dorm Neighbor: Max Kasch
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.