TIFF 2012: The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, USA)

The Place Beyond the Pines is a rare film; one that sinks its hooks into you almost instantly, just to abruptly rip them out as it trudges along through less compelling territory. Having known literally nothing about it prior to its premiere at TIFF, a vast majority of viewers were initially kept in the dark as to what each character’s role was and to what extent they’d propel the narrative in any particular direction.

Inevitably making comparisons to Drive, yes, people were right to assume that Gosling somewhat reprises his role as a soft-spoken stuntman thrust into the midst of startling criminal activity, but Pines evolves into something much more layered. Initially centering on his character Luke, the sideshow daredevil turns to a life of crime to support the son he never knew he had, setting into motion a tumultuous series of events that alter the course of the film at carefully mapped out intervals.

In giving credit where it’s due, the opening thirty to forty-five minutes are Pines‘ strongest, chronicling the aforementioned outlaw’s felonious escapades with unparalleled visual panache while remaining as thrilling as can be. From instances of armed robbery to a brilliantly executed high-speed pursuit through the Schenectady, New York suburbs, director Cianfrance sets the stage for something truly special.

Changing perspectives to appealingly embrace both sides of the law from a similarly sin-centric angle, the film regrettably loses some gusto as this switch implants itself firmly in our minds, even though the characters themselves are dynamic and almost outlandishly three-dimensional as such. Granted, everything’s palpably integrated, with Cianfrance himself stating the narrative shifts can be construed as figurative passes of a baton, it’s just a shame nothing that follows can hold a candle to The Place Beyond the Pines‘ terrific first impression and the budding auteur’s remarkable finesse in handling a sprawling epic such as this.

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