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The Place Beyond the Pines

Released 2013. Director: Derek Cianfrance

LIKE A SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is made up of three stories, or rather, one minor epic told in three parts. From the action of two men who clash for only a brief instant comes a story worthy of a classic. Amidst its action-fuelled backdrop the movie delves into the inextricable relationships between fathers and sons, crime and punishment, and responsibility and morality.

In the first third, Ryan Gosling is a motorcycle stuntman who finds out he’s fathered a child a year after a brief fling. He decides to end his drifter lifestyle to stay put for his son. But his one-time girlfriend has moved on with a new man. It’s a complicated situation and Ryan resorts to robbing banks because he wants so dearly to have money to raise his kid. The middle section stars mostly Bradley Cooper, who plays the cop who nabs Ryan in a fatal shootout. The aftermath leads him to expose corruption in the police force and in the years that follow his career rises spectacularly. The last part concerns two teenage boys who discover a secret powerful enough to destroy both families. One that certainly escalates into recrimination and vengeance.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie coursing with emotions, passion, anger and desperation. More than an absorbing drama, it is also a thrilling action movie. The jagged editing is effective in heightening the action scenes, almost as if we were racing along the speeding motorcycles riding over a rugged road and crunching fallen branches in the forest, unlike typical handheld photography which gives a jerky and queasy feeling without enhancing the mood or add much that’s positive.

The script is a collaboration between director Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder and is rich in details in exploring the lives at different ends of the justice scale. The acting is impressive. Ryan Gosling shines as the rugged bad boy with a heart of gold. Bradley Cooper’s cop is smart but haunted by his own actions. The fine supporting cast includes Eva Mendes, young actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen; a very creepy Ben Mendelsohn and a devilish Ray Liotta.

There’s no denying the movie romanticizes an outlaw. The bank robber is ultimately held aloft as the real hero. In so doing, the movie carries more than a cautionary note about sons visited by the sins of their fathers. It’s about how sons look back on their fathers and the decisions they made, right or wrong, that led them all to where they end up.

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