Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines refers to the city Schenectady, New York, a name derived from the Mohawk word meaning "place beyond the pine plains." It's a multi-generational crime-drama serving as the director's followup to his Sundance breakout Blue Valentine (read our review), starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in an Oscar-nominated role.
Gosling and Bradley Cooper co-headline The Place Beyond the Pines as carnie stunt rider Luke and NY cop Avery Cross. Luke provides for his son and ex-girlfriend (Eva Mendes) by robbing banks; meanwhile, Avery climbs the ranks in order to become a politician. However, when their worlds collide, it has unforeseen consequences - ones which continue to resonate fifteen years later, haunting the lives of both their teenage sons (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen).
The cast includes Mendes and Rose Byrne (Insidious) as the suffering wives and Ray Liotta (Killing Them Softly) as a seasoned police officer, who helps give Avery a crash-course in corruption. In addition, character actors Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek Into Darkness), Mahershala Ali (Alphas) and Harris Yulin (24, Law & Order) play key supporting characters, who help fill out the population of the film's Neo Noir-ish setting.
Visually, Place Beyond the Pines has a shoestring budget look (raw lighting, grainy footage) on part with Blue Valentine, even though Cianfrance had improved funding on his new project; however, the subdued colors and aesthetic are in keeping with the story's gloomy tone. Similarly, Sean Bobbitt's cinematography shares much in common with his work on Shame; though, it's difficult to gauge whether or not the action sequences are up to scratch, since that's not Bobbitt's area of expertise. Not to mention, Cianfrance isn't known for high-kinetic storytelling (unlike Spike Lee on the upcoming Oldboy remake, featuring Bobbit as the director of photography).
Cianfrance co-wrote the script with lesser-knowns Ben Coccio (The Beginner) and Darius Marder (Loot) - based on an original story he conceived with Coccio - and no doubt, they're aiming high with Place Beyond the Pines. Most films would focus solely on Luke's turn to crime and/or Avery's rallying against the system; here, all that is woven together with the future storyline concerning their children and how they handle their inherited legacies (which is barely even referenced in the trailer, given all the other ground it has to cover).
One glance at initial critical reactions to Place Beyond the Pines (which screened at this year's Toronto International Film Festival) and it's easy to pick out a trend - namely, the film's dense with themes and gut-wrenching drama, but suffers from a similar excess of ambition (coupled with unequal delivery) that has inflicted the work of many a director coming off their first critically-acclaimed success. Still, it definitely seems worth a look, for the cast alone.
[Note: we (almost) made it through this trailer breakdown without a Drive joke.]
The Place Beyond the Pines begins a limited release on March 29th, 2013.
Source: Yahoo! Movies
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