Early days but film will be hard to beat

Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman and J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. Photo: PA Photo/Daniel McFadden/Sony Pictures
Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman and J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. Photo: PA Photo/Daniel McFadden/Sony Pictures

The fresh paint of 2015 has barely dried and already we have a strong contender for the film of the year.

Inspired by writer-director Damien Chazelle’s experiences in a fiercely competitive high school jazz band, Whiplash is an electrifying tale of a 19-year-old drummer’s bruising battle of wits with his monstrous college tutor.

As the title intimates, pain is acute in Chazelle’s lean script that pulls no punches in its depiction of the pursuit of musical excellence, which propels the self-destructive student to the brink of a mental and physical breakdown.

Whiplash delivers one emotional wallop after another as Andrew practises until his hands bleed and Simmons belittles those herculean efforts by growling, “Is that the fastest you can go? It is no wonder Mommy ran out on you!”

We root for the beleaguered 19-year-old with every display of frenzied stick-work, urging Andrew to wipe the smug grin off Fletcher’s face.

Our investment in the characters is immense and Chazelle rewards us with an astounding denouement that saps every ounce of energy from our bodies. We’re delirious, euphoric and physically spent.