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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper Cycle Through Life

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: March 29, 2013 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 140 minutes
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, 
Darius Marder
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, 
Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen,
Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne, 
Mahershala Ali, Bruce Greenwood,
Harris Yulin

I went into "The Place Beyond the Pines" knowing nothing about it. Other than its two lead actors, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't seen any trailers. I wasn't even sure which genre it fell under. To be honest, the name led me to expect a supernatural twist of some sort. Instead, I ended up watching a film that was realistic, gritty, and very much down to earth.

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman who works for a touring carnival company. Because of his job, he's never able to stick around the same place for very long. During one of his stops, he reconnects with a woman from his past. Romina (Eva Mendes) accepts a motorcycle ride from Luke to her house but doesn't invite him inside. There are reasons for that. Her current boyfriend, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), is only one of them. A possible solution to Luke's problems comes from a new friend, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who runs an auto repair shop.

Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is a rookie police officer. He chose to become a cop instead of following in the footsteps of his father, Al (Harris Yulin), a retired judge. Avery is squeaky clean and respects the law, perhaps because he grew up around it. He and his dad have disagreements but seem very close. Jennifer (Rose Byrne), his wife, worries about the safety of the job. Some of his colleagues, including Deluca (Ray Liotta), have been at it longer; they’ve even had to pull out their gun a few times. 

If I seem sparse with details, there's a reason for that. Much more happens. It's better to just sit back and let everything unfold. The movie is divided sharply into three clear acts. It progresses at a leisurely pace, but the plot is always advancing. I was never bored. My eyes were glued to the screen. This is a film that knows how to tell a story!

Most of "The Place Beyond the Pines" is set in the New York town of Schenectady, but I kept trying to figure where and what the film's title was referring to. While watching and wondering, I checkmarked a few locations in my mind – all from key scenes, of course – that appeared to be possibilities. Well, as it turns out, Schenectady is a Mohawk Indian word that roughly translates into English as "the place beyond the pines." But the "place" in question could also represent a certain state of mind or moment of desperation.

Throughout the film, people do the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons, and yes, the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Sometimes decisions have to be made at the spur of the moment – without any time to calculate their effect. But all actions have consequences – some far-reaching. Such is the cycle of life.

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