The Place Beyond the Pines movie poster
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The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines movie poster

The Place Beyond the Pines Movie Review

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What makes a son like his father? Is a son doomed to make his father's mistakes? These questions are explored in the sweeping yet personal epic from director Derek Cianfrance The Place Beyond the Pines, which reunites him with his Blue Valentine star Ryan Gosling. At times captivating, at other times longwinded, The Place Beyond the Pines is the first good drama of the year. Unfortunately, it's also far from perfect.

Ryan Gosling plays motorcycle stunt driver Luke, who one day learns that he has a young son. Despite the protests by his former girlfriend (Eva Mendes), he immediately quits his traveling job to stay close to his child. But to make ends meet, he resorts to robbing banks, which brings him into contact with police officer Avery Cross, played by Bradley Cooper. And that's just the beginning...

The Place Beyond the Pines is a beautifully crafted, visually impressive and superbly acted film that has all the makings of a major hit. The movie is immensely personal - it is about men, their feelings, their obligations and their loyalties - and yet Cianfrance approaches the story like a sweeping epic, making the movie larger and grander than it has any right to be.

The approach works. To a point. Without saying too much, Cianfrance throws multiple curveballs at the audience - not quite twists, but directional surprises and turns that defy the default nature of such a story. The acting is top notch, too. Ryan Gosling delivers a fine performance, and Bradley Cooper gives one of the best performances of his career (behind only Silver Linings Playbook).

But the movie only works to a point. The Place Beyond the Pines is distinctly split into three acts, with the first being the best. The second is also solid although not as interesting, but the movie drags significantly more in the third act as Cianfrance opts to focus on new elements previously not introduced (I'm being vague for a reason). The third act isn't poorly done; it just stands in sharp contrast to the others. At 140 minutes in length, the movie also begins to feel less like an epic and more like just a really long movie.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a good movie, with terrific direction and great acting. But it suffers from its unconventional structure and slogs its way to the finish line. It is for this reason that Pines fails to elevate to the tree line.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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