Summer Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

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If you’re tired of explosions, superheroes, and hectic action in your summer movies, then head down to your local independent theater and see The Place Beyond the Pines.

The Place Beyond the Pines

The film stars Ryan Gosling as Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stuntman who learns that he has a son with a former girlfriend named Romina (Eva Mendes). Without a way to provide for the child, Luke concocts a plan to rob banks on his motorcycle. Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross, a police officer pursuing Luke. As the story unfolds, the paths of these two men cross in more ways than one.

This is the second collaboration between Gosling and writer/director Derek Cianfrance, their first being the critically acclaimed Blue Valentine. Cianfrance makes his presence felt in both the script and onscreen; his writing is broad but focused, his direction realistic yet captivating. I particularly enjoyed the setting of Schenectady, New York, partly because I live about thirty minutes from there. It’s a sort of sleepy, wooded area that is captured brilliantly and fits perfectly within the story.

The Place Beyond the Pines features some excellent performances from a well-cast group of actors and actresses. Gosling in particular shines as stuntman turned bank- robber Luke Glanton. He is at first menacing with his imposing physique and numerous tattoos, yet loving and soft-spoken in his scenes with Mendes and his infant son. Newcomers Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen also provide excellent support, as do Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper.

That said, the script is definitely the strongest part of the film. This isn’t a traditional, formulaic Hollywood plot. Rather, it is a realistic story told over years and generations. My friend described the plot as “Shakespearean,” and I think this description fits well. You might think you know where it’s going, but trust me, you’ll be surprised. In many ways the film is a tragedy, inspecting what happens when otherwise good people reach too high. And yet I think that there is a certain hopefulness that runs alongside with the tragedy; the idea that even if we make mistakes in life, there is a chance of redemption–if not for us, then for those who come after.

No, this is not a pulse-pounding action thriller with bullets and bodies flying left and right. There aren’t any super powers or incredible special-effects. The Place Beyond the Pines is an sombre, honest study in family and legacy. If you’re looking for a break from the summer blockbuster, start here.

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