What happens when Mr Holland’s Opus meets Full Metal Jacket? You get Whiplash. The Oscar-nominated movie revolves around a student and his music teacher who tries to push the limits of the former's love for music to greatness.
Put together with a shoestring budget and shot in 19 days flat, young director Damien Chazelle’s film has banked on the excellent performances of Miles Teller, who plays the student, and J K Simmons, who appears as the teacher.
Fletcher, as a strict teacher, conducts the jazz section at Shaffer Music Conservatory with military discipline. He selects Andrew to be the temporary percussionist of the studio band of the institution. Fletcher, with a keen ear for music, is a disciplinarian who orders band members out when their musical instruments go off key or when their tempo isn’t right. He tries the same method on the new recruit. Determined and inspired, Andrew practises with such zeal that the skin on his hands tears and starts to bleed.
Spotting an opportunity after their studio band's core percussionist loses his musical notes, Andrew performs for the band. He picks up the beat and the band wins an award. He thinks he has earned his position, only to have his hopes dashed when Fletcher brings in a new member, keeping three percussionists for the band.
The young director captures the synergy in the interplay between the verbally-abusive music teacher and the student as both of them strive to hit the note of excellence.
Simmons, who had always landed small roles, be it in Juno, Young Adult or Up in The Air, has acted brilliantly, playing the character with remarkable conviction. Teller’s acting too will make critics sit up and take notice. Though the other characters in the movie are rather sketchy, because the intense storyline is focused on the two protagonists, most people will relate to this fine storytelling with its depiction of a brilliant teacher and a struggling student. In the end, as the drum booms, the film leaves you with the question: is all this blood and sweat utterly unnecessarily for achieving excellence or is it totally necessary?