Blu-ray Review Drama

Blu-ray Review: Whiplash

March 14, 2015Ben MK

Block rockin' beats...

Pursuing one's dreams takes a special kind of drive. And Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City, has got it in spades. Motivated by a singular purpose — to be one of jazz music's greats — he sacrifices his relationships, and even his own well-being, pushing himself to his physical limit trying to perfect his craft. But how far is too far? Under the expert tutelage and intense scrutiny of music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) — Shaffer's resident maestro and masochist extraordinaire — Andrew will discover the answer.


The Film You don't have to be a jazz aficionado to get swept up in the story. Just about anyone who's ever sacrificed something in pursuit of a goal will easily identify with Andrew and his struggles. But the character does take things to unusual (even borderline cartoonish) extremes: practicing his drumming till his hands are raw and bloody and sabotaging his own relationship with his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist), simply because he anticipates she'll hold him back. At one point, he even insists on playing, in spite of sustaining serious injuries, with disastrous results.

Still, Teller's performance is nothing short of engrossing, both in straightforward scenes where he's simply engaging other actors in conversation, but especially when he contorts his face in agony, sweat dripping off his brow, as he tries his hardest to be Shaffer's answer to the Energizer Bunny. The actor also has a natural on-screen rapport with Paul Reiser, who plays his supportive father, a failed writer (turned high school English teacher) who has trouble comprehending why his son would put himself through such torture.

However, the film wouldn't be nearly half as interesting without Simmons, filling a role that often seems to exist purely to antagonize Andrew, viciously tearing him down whenever he manages to claim a small victory. In another actor's hands, Fletcher could easily have devolved into a caricature, but Simmons has a knack for this type of performance. He machine-guns his way through line after line of sarcastically scathing dialog, commanding the audience's full attention every time he strides on-screen. It's no wonder that he won an Oscar for his part, for it's his interplay with Teller that gives the film its mesmerizing rhythm.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Another Sony Blu-ray release, another excellent A/V presentation. Whiplash may not benefit from the same generous production budget as some of the studio's other recent releases, but that doesn't mean the picture or sound quality suffers. This Blu-ray has plenty to offer in both departments, beginning with a brilliantly crisp image chocked full of fine detail, richly saturated colors and stunningly deep black levels. And it's topped off with a robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that makes the film's Oscar-winning efforts for sound-mixing sound exceptional, especially when it comes to its thoroughly enveloping renditions of contemporary jazz pieces like "Whiplash" and "Caravan."

Special Features Sony's Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy of the film, plus over an hour's worth of extras. Among them, viewers will find Timekeepers, a 43-minute piece comprised of interviews with professional drummers discussing their musical experiences; the 18-minute Whiplash Original Short Film and the 2-minute deleted scene Fletcher at Home (both available with optional commentary); An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle, an 8-minute featurette that has the trio answering a few short questions about the film ahead of its premiere at TIFF 2014; and the film's 2-minute Theatrical Trailer. A Commentary with J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle is also included, which features the pair joking around, engaging in some good-natured ribbing at Teller's expense, and touching on such topics as the actors' performances, the cinematography, the music and the logistics of shooting the entire movie in only 19 days.

The Bottom Line Fueled by blood, sweat and a pair of intense performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, Whiplash paints a vivid portrait of a young man who will go to any lengths to achieve his goals. Likewise, movie lovers should make a concerted effort to see this Oscar-winning film on Blu-ray. Not only is it one of the best movies of 2014, but its Blu-ray release will leave viewers slack-jawed with its flawless audio and video, as well as its selection of insightful extras. Absolutely recommended.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on October 24th, 2014.

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