A multi generational story, covering several well worn cinematic themes, but has at its heart the relationship between fathers and sons. While flawed, and like many Hollywood films, suffers from being overly long (almost two and a half hours) The Place Beyond the Pines is a fine piece of film making.
Split into three acts, the first concerns motorbike rebel Luke, played by Ryan Gosling, who creates a truly cinematic anti hero, with echoes of previous bad boys from cinema history – Elvis in “Roustabout”, Brando in the “Wild One”, and even Gosling himself, in “Drive”. One can practically hear the Shangi-Las singing “Leader of the Pack” as he swaggers through the opening scenes.
The first ten minutes of the film is a one take shot of the back of Gosling’s neck, as he wanders through the grounds of a low rent fairground, swings his legs across a motorbike, and enters the Wall of Death. Later we see him meet an old flame, played by the alluring Eve Mendes, and discovers he is the father of a baby. Wanting to provide for his young son, he embarks on an increasingly risky bank raids (abetted by an accomplice, played by the always excellent Ben Mendelsohn), and sparks a series of events that will ripple down through the lives of the main characters 15 years later.
It’s a great watch, with some wonderful cinematic scenes, with the visceral thrill of a high speed adrenalised get away on a motorbike being particularly well captured by director Derek Cianfrance (who also directed Gosling in the excellent, and similarly downbeat Blue Valentine). The performances are all solid as you’d expect from a strong cast. Eve Mendes plays down the sex appeal, in her portrayal of a blue collar second generation immigrant, Bradley Cooper puts in another home run as the smart cop with ambition, and Ray Liotta dials in one of his trademark bad guy roles.
While there is much to admire, the length of the film makes a big call on it’s audience to stay with it, and I lost interest with the sudden jump to events 15 years later. But for the opening third alone, and for Gosling’s portrayal of anti hero Luke, it’s well worth the price of admission.