The Place beyond the Pines (2012)

The Place beyond the Pines (2012)
  • Time: 140 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama
  • Director: Derek Cianfrance
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta


A mysterious and mythical motorcycle racer, Luke, (Ryan Gosling) drives out of a traveling carnival globe of death and whizzes through the backstreets of Schenectady, New York, desperately trying to connect with a former lover, Romina, (Eva Mendes) who recently and secretly gave birth to the stunt rider’s son. In an attempt to provide for his new family, Luke quits the carnival life and commits a series of bank robberies aided by his superior riding ability. The stakes rise as Luke is put on a collision course with an ambitious police officer, Avery Cross, (Bradley Cooper) looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption. The sweeping drama unfolds over fifteen years as the sins of the past haunt the present days lives of two high school boys wrestling with the legacy they’ve inherited. The only refuge is found in the place beyond the pines.


  • “The Place Beyond The Pines” is an incredible film with a great plot and intense emotional drama! I have not seen anything like this for a long, long time. Everything, from the acting to the cinematography to the music was phenomenal. It’s one of those movies that deserves way more attention than its getting! With a runtime of 140 minutes, it’s a long film, but it’s interesting enough to keep the attention of the audience. A must-see, without any doubt!

  • ‘If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder’ funny because this immortal line, great as it is, could be directly quoted back to helmer Derek Cianfrance himself. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am feeling right now, angry even.

    So why am I so annoyed? Because Cianfrance has delivered a movie so powerful, so engrossing dare I say beautiful and then pissed all over it in the final act. I was thinking 5 stars, 10/10, maybe even film of the year until that fateful last half hour. Gutted. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be feeling so pissed off if it wasn’t for the sheer quality delivered throughout acts I & II.

    What we have here is not a new concept for intimate drama, fans of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will be well versed in the structure of a story split up into three separate passages with a different lead character in each.

    I don’t see a way to review this movie and get my point across without breaking it down into the three separate parts. If fearful of spoilers do NOT read on.

    Act I belongs to Ryan Gosling, Mr morose himself. Here Gosling plays Handsome Luke a motorcycle stunt rider working at a travelling fair who runs into Romina, played by Eva Mendes, an old flame who neglects to inform him that he’s now father to her new born son. Upon discovery Luke turns to bank robbery as a way of providing for his child until a botched job ends with him being killed at the hands of rookie cop Bradley Cooper. Now I have to tell you, I’m a huge fan of intimate family dramas and this opening hour showcases some of the best filmmaking and performances of 2012. The opening shot alone is worthy of the highest praise and from here on in we are delivered a story so captivating that I was oblivious to the fact that it was ever part of a written screenplay. Everything plays out so naturally. I must also give a big up to Ben Mendelsohn who nearly trumps Gosling himself in the performance stakes.

    Act II is reserved for Bradley Cooper, delivering his best ever acting to date, playing ambitious cop and newfound father Avery Cross, who finds himself neck high in police corruption. This together with the guilt over killing Luke leaves him no option other than to blow the whistle and incriminate the lot. Although not as strong as Act I, we’re still in good hands, and where have you been Mr Cooper? Hung over in Vegas too much me thinks. Throughout this second story the direction and photography continue to impress. Here we are introduced to a whole bunch of new shady characters led by the ever brilliant Ray Liotta. Yet despite the shift in direction, the story still continues to engross you, with performances of the highest calibre.

    Act III sees the introduction of Dane DeHaan playing Jason, the now teenaged son of Gosling’s Handsome Luke. Who happens to befriend, you guessed it, the son of Bradley Cooper. I’m beginning to feel angry again……….Desperate to learn the facts about his father, Jason unearths the truth behind his demise and sets in motion plans of revenge. Although we still have much to admire, it was here that for the first time I became conscience that I was watching a screenplay. For the first time everything felt contrived.

    Typically it’s the final 5/10 minutes that can kill an otherwise stellar effort, the rug suddenly pulled out from under its feet. Yet here we see greatness slowly ebbing away, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. As soon as the second act drew to a close and I saw “15 years later” on the screen, I knew we were in trouble. I’d just spent the last two hours fully engrossed and invested in the moment with these characters only to be thrown 15 years into the future. Well I’m not invested in them any more, and this is why I feel so bitter, I was absolutely wowed by this movie up until this point. A slow death occurs from here on in.

    The central message is simple, do children pay for the sins of their parents?, and herein lies the problem from a structuring perspective, you can’t cover that much ground without skipping years on screen so you could argue that it was doomed to fail from the start. But what a wonderful start and middle it turned out to be.

    Overall the positives by far outweigh the negatives and I do recommend this highly, I mean what positives they are. Incredible performances from all concerned with a career high from Bradley Cooper. Exquisite camerawork and wonderful framing from cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, this movie is beautiful, Sean you are fast becoming a favourite of mine. An appropriately haunting score curtesy of Mike Patton and extremely assured direction from Mr Cianfrance, clearly building on the promise he showed us with 2010’s wonderful ‘Blue Valentine’. My tip would be to say fuck it’s central message and stop it after Act II.

    8.5/10 a flawed masterpiece. Still gutted.

  • As I viewed the first frame of director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, I witnessed star Ryan Gosling fiddling about with a switchblade before leaving his dressing room. The camera then tracks him to a state fair circus area where he proceeds to do some daredevil stunt work. I’m not gonna lie. Within the first five minutes, I was pumped to see the rest of this movie. Gosling portrays motorcycle outlaw Luke Glanton and his screen presence is fiercely intimidating. Resembling a young Steve McQueen (not in looks but in stature) and having his own signature “movie walk” (it’s the same in everything he’s in especially Drive), he has the gift of being a great actor while relying on the most minimal amount of dialogue (I’m not sure if I’m right, but I think it’s in his contract to be followed with the camera from his backside and not his front side). In “Pines,” which is a long, winding film that drifts about into uncharted territory once too often, Gosling’s Glanton is only featured in the first half (he inhabits about an hour of screen time). You follow his character hoping that he finds peace of mind with his life choices. Alas, when he leaves the proceedings, the director asks us, the audience, to latch onto another character and then another (each with their own hidden agendas). So here’s the gist of it: when watching The Place Beyond the Pines, you begin to realize that this is the movie equivalent of getting in a car, driving to an unknown destination, realizing that you’re thousands of miles away, and stopping in the middle of nowhere. Two hours and twenty minutes after viewing it, I figured I was on some kind of meaningless journey (to where I have no clue) instead of fully immersed in an actual, relevant cinematic experience. “Pines” doesn’t make much of a point and offers no real significance when it comes to its plot descriptions. The fact that it’s well directed (lots of tracking shots and some hand held camera stuff), ardently scripted, and evenly scored only frustrates me even more as to the fact that I just can’t recommend it.

    Presenting itself as a three part character study and taking place in two fairly different time periods, “Pines” takes a gander at motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber Luke Glanton. He ditches touring around the state of New York to stay in town and befriend an old flame (he robs banks for extra money to support a one year old child he didn’t even know about). Then there is police officer Avery Cross (played by Bradley Cooper) who while only a year on the job and in the line of duty, gets shot in the leg and winds up being a hero (he apprehends Glanton). Fast forward 15 year later, and we get a troubled boy (Glanton’s grown up son) who searches for any information on the father he never had by resorting to a violent act of kidnapping. All of these characters have serious moral dilemmas. They’re all connected in some way either by blood or simple coincidence, and their lives intersect for minutes at a time. This is my biggest complaint with “Pines.” The film plays like three different stories that all have deadening, superficial loose ends. We are not given a chance to think about and decipher each character because the plot already leads us into the trials and tribulations of another. Like I said earlier, this flick is a journey that leads to nowhere. The fact that it’s well done only leads to my continued frustration with it.

    In hindsight though, The Place Beyond the Pines is a film of utmost originality. If I’m not mistaken, it is cut completely from original cloth (its not based on a story, a book, or true events). But it was difficult for me to decide on who to root for, who to reason with, and who to feel sorry for when it came to the actions of the dissuaded players in the cast. One cast member in particular who had an interesting character motivation, was Luke’s friend Robin Van Der Zee (played by Ben Mendelsohn). He persuaded Luke to do the robberies and then cut him off by eventually not helping him escape. Then when Luke’s son comes knocking on the door 15 years later, Robin tells him what a great guy Luke was and what an amazing motorcycle rider he became. I don’t know about you but this seems pretty hypocritical to me.

    Honestly, there are three questions you have to ask yourself when viewing this thing: is this film about Glanton’s need to take care of his family (his young boy and his forgotten lover played by Eva Mendes) by committing multiple motorcycle robberies, is it about Cooper’s character who works on a corrupt police force and wants to break free by becoming New York’s youngest district attorney, or is it about Gosling’s character’s misguided, unloved son who resorts to stealing, kidnapping, and alleged drug dealing to get through the day? I wasn’t sure and I couldn’t make up my mind on who was the main focus. This is a vehicle that comes off as a set of ideas in search of a major voice. Cianfrance’s earlier release, Blue Valentine at least had the audacity to keep the storytelling locked in one area and not have it break off into tangents like he does here. If you choose to see “Pines,” see it for its whimsical pace (this film moves at a fast clip for having a 2 and a half hour running time), its decent performances and its raw like tone. Just know that it may leave you “beyond” cold in the end.

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • “Not since Hall and Oates has there been such a team.”

    If you ride like lightening, you’ll crash like thunder. With as much speed and adrenaline as handsome Luke’s motor riding, The Place Beyond the Pines navigates a complex trail of twists and turns that creates an unavoidable crash course in fate.

    After I stumbled upon the first poster of The Place Beyond the Pines last year during the Toronto Film Festival, there was little to scrape off the surface except a tatted up Ryan Gosling holding a baby. The mystery behind the film continued for months until initial trailers surfaced stirring an understandable misconception–is this Drive 2.0? While Gosling’s character has similar traits to his role as the Driver (mysterious nature, quiet demeanor, strikingly badass), this is not a recreation of Drive.

    A couple years ago we saw the heart-wrenching debut of relatively unknown writer-director Derek Cianfrance with Blue Valentine. Re-teaming with Gosling, Cianfrance’s sequel project with the actor boasts a heavy script with a well-rounded cast of grade-A performances.

    The Place Beyond the Pines unfolds in three acts, all intertwined and all focusing on the relationship between father and son, the question of morality and the length of how far the main characters will push the law to provide for their families. The first act focuses on Luke (Ryan Gosling) who rides back into Schenectady, New York, where he runs into Romina (Eva Mendes), a one-night stand from a year prior. Luke discovers Romina gave birth to their son Jason, and Luke is determined to take control of his life to provide for them at any cost. Bank robbing becomes the best solution after Luke meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) whose past history with bank robbing has never gotten him caught. After a couple successful bank robbing stints with quick getaways, Luke’s error-less streak comes to an end when he comes face to face with rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), which is where the film takes a jarring pivot into act two.

    The second act: Avery’s rise in the police force, and his relentless drive to provide for his wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and infant son AJ. The morality of good cop vs. bad cop is presented to Avery whose moral compass becomes skewed by another corrupt cop on the force, played by the ever-smarmy Ray Liotta. This all influences act three, which fast forwards 15 years later…but it’s best to go in knowing little about the final act except the connection between Luke and Avery has a unique twist of fate involving Luke and Avery’s sons.

    There is no apparent “villain” in the film, at least not expressed by the film’s director. Both characters struggle with how to provide for their families and to what extreme they’ll go to solidify their families’ financial safety.

    But while the good vs. evil concept may become monotonous at times, particularly in the second act that tends to drag in it’s quest for righteousness, one facet of the film remains strong from start to finish–the acting. Ryan Gosling has been Academy Award-worthy for over a decade, and has only recently broke into mainstream appeal (With the exception of The Notebook, his roles following were mainly indies with exceptional performances). He’s only in a fraction of the film, but his moments on screen are some of the most electric shots in the film…even the way his character looks at Eva Mendes has a James Dean appeal. Bradley Cooper proves his recent success in Silver Linings Playbook was no fluke–his credibility as an actor continues to rise with this film. And Eva Mendes? The girl can act! She’s been around for a while, but she’s never had any role that has genuinely solidified her as a good actress–Place Beyond the Pines gives her that accolade.

    But the real surprise actors in this film are AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane Dehaan) who play the sons of Cooper and Gosling respectively. The two play confused, reckless youth whose fathers past mistakes influence their futures. I wasn’t convinced with Cohen’s character or his slummish demeanor coming from such a highly-influenced family, but Dehaan’s performance is one to lookout for.

    Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious film–probably the best of the year thus far, but it didn’t garner a perfect score on my end. While there was a lot of meat to this film, Cianfrance bit off more than he could chew translating his screenplay onto the big screen. It’s overall a good watch and worth checking out as it will likely resurface around award season.

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