There’s a magical feeling you get sometimes as a movie lover. It hits you around the 15-minute mark of a film and you realize, “Wow, this feels like it was made for me, and this is going to be a movie I will remember forever.”
It’s a feeling I’ve felt only a handful of times in a theater: “Drive,” “The Departed,” “The Dark Knight.” The most recent is Derek Cianfrance’s latest, “The Place Beyond the Pines.” It’s a large, sprawling story about three characters whose lives intersect over a 15-year period: a carnival motorcyclist (Ryan Gosling) who decides to support his newborn son by using his skills to rob banks and outrun police; a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) who, after lying about a mistake he made, is praised as a hero; and a high school kid (Dane DeHaan) who tries to discover his father’s past only to learn about himself instead.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” tries something new with its approach. Instead of a simple story of a few characters, the film creates a world that a large number of characters inhabit. With each section of the film we get a new lead with new motivations who interacts with all the previous characters so that it always stays in the same place, telling the story of this world. With the story constantly moving forward over its 15 years, we never lose sight of the personal stories of the smaller characters since we see these characters through all three lead characters’ eyes. The storytelling style is bold and experimental, but with Cianfrance’s exceptional direction it ends up being the perfect way to tell this story.
Each section of the film has a different feel. Gosling’s has a swift-moving narrative of fatherhood, filled with robbery and tense police chases. Cooper’s deals with doing the right thing when the world doesn’t want you to. The final section is about discovering yourself through your past and dealing with the pain of childhood.
The characters in the movie are three-dimensional. No character is truly a hero or a villain; every character does what it seems logical to do. The dialogue feels realistic; the writers understand these characters so well that they know how they would talk to each other.
Cianfrance’s previous effort, “Blue Valentine,” had incredible direction, cinematography and dialogue, and “The Place Beyond The Pines” is even better. Cianfrance is a director to watch out for.
Cooper and Gosling prove they are real actors and more than just pretty faces. The cinematography tells the story with dark, vibrant colors and a natural layer of grain from the usage of film (not digital).
The movie makes you feel suspense, anger, sadness and emotional relief, making it a tense journey. I never knew where the story would go, but I wanted to go there with it. For a film running at 2 hours and 20 minutes, that is a bold feat.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” is epic and experimental; see it on the big screen while you can.
• “The Place Beyond the Pines” is playing at Yakima Cinema.
• Ryan Chang graduated from Eisenhower High School in June. He has written for the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed section and is a passionate student of film.