The Place Beyond the Pines

Place beyond the pines

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is an epic tale of crime and corruption, and fathers and sons.

It’s a generational tale, complete with bank robberies, kidnappings, corrupt police officers, drug deals, and death. It’s a lengthy tale that shifts perspectives multiple times. Regardless, it will hold your attention all the way through, as the drama grabs hold and doesn’t let go.

Luke Gaston (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman working in a carnival side-show act. When his troupe returns to Altamont, NY, he’s visited by an old flame, Romina (Eva Mendes). When Luke tries to circle back with her after the show, he’s surprised to learn that she has a child now, and that the boy is his.

Feeling a sense of obligation, Luke quits the show and decides to stay in town to try to provide for the child in spite of the fact that Romina doesn’t want him in the boy’s life. Unsure of what he’ll be able to do for work, he falls in with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), an auto repair shop owner who puts forth a risky proposition. If Luke really wants to take care of the kid, he should start robbing banks.

As Luke and Robin experience a few early successes, the local PD start to close in. One cop in particular, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), gets deeply entangled. Avery is a straight shooter with a young child of his own. But when other members of the department offer to involve him in their illicit activities, including trying to confiscate and not turn in the proceeds from Gaston’s heists, Avery finds himself caught in a dilemma. Does he play ball with the dirty cops, and enjoy the ill-gotten gains? Or does he do the right thing, in spite of the risks involved to his career and family?

“The Place Behind the Pines” shifts perspectives between these two men, almost as if it were telling different chapters in the same story. It’s thoughtfully paced, and certainly not brief (runtime: 2:20), but that’s not to imply that its boring, or dull in any way. There’s always an emotional weight involved, no matter what point of the story you’re at. You’ll feel the enormity and consequences of the decisions that the characters make. Every choice has repercussions. The decisions and actions here are always supercharged by the fact that behind every move and manuever, there’s a family. It’s a very dramatic (albeit very long) tale.

Gosling’s Luke and Cooper’s Avery are mirror images of each other. One is a criminal whose father abandoned him, now breaking the law in order to try to provide for his infant son. The other is a cop whose father put a silver spoon in his mouth growing up, trying to uphold the law in spite of the fact it may jeopardize his job and thus his ability to provide for his family. It’s a clever inversion, especially given the way the baton passes between stories, it’s almost as if the movie is a coin, flipping in mid-air to land on the other side. In both cases, however, the sins of the father are visited upon the sons.

It’s also a beautifully shot film. There’s numerous visually striking images of forests and roadways. The action sequences are all well crafted, as well. Your pulse will quicken as Luke “rides like lighting” away from banks and cops. For the most part, however, the film is a crime drama, relying on its great script and superb performances in order to involve the audience.  Director Derek Cianfrance (of “Blue Valentine” fame) does an outstanding job getting great performances across the board and keeping the story riveting in spite of its enormous runtime and shifts in central character.

Despite it’s lengthy runtime, “The Place Beyond the Pines” never lost my attention. It’s a movie with an epic scope and a great story to tell, featuring excellent performances from two of today’s biggest names in Cooper and Gosling. There are a small number of issues that keep it from earning any “plusses” from me, but this is still a movie with top ten potential for 2013.



Bonus review on this one! Click through to see me join the 3 Guys of as I fill in as a temp for their review of “The Place Beyond the Pines“!

Daniel Fogarty

79 thoughts on “The Place Beyond the Pines

  1. Great review. I really was looking forward to watching this movie in the theatre but it never came to mine unfortunately :(. I guess I will have to wait for the home video release.

    • Honestly? I usually recommend people head to the theater when the movie is really good. But in this case, seeing as it’s so long, you’ll probably appreciate being able to pause it or watch it in installments. I wouldnt worry too much that you missed it on the big screen 😉

  2. I’m looking forward to seeing it now – though the interest was there as soon as I heard both Gosling and Cooper are making appearances. And an A from you can only mean one thing – that it’s damn good.

  3. Pingback: Place Beyond the Pines Review: Sins of the Father | Rorschach Reviews

  4. The Place Beyond the Pines held my attention all the way through too. I cared what was going to happen, stayed with me. Definitely one of my favorites of this year. I also loved the haunting soundtrack.

    • Cool. Good to hear Chris. Yeah, for such a long movie, my attention never wavered. That says something I think. Now, I think the first two acts are stronger than the third… but the ending itself was really excellent 😀

      It’s early, but it still has a top ten shot for me, I suspect 😉 😀

  5. I was so impressed with this, I’m glad you enjoyed it, Fogs 😀 Very nice review, I love the way you avoid treading on much spoiler territory, I think that takes a real writing talent — getting your point across but not revealing a lot.

    That main song… Wow. So much poignancy in it, but so haunting!!

    The cast is great and the story’s really engaging for such a lengthy endeavour, I just thought the movie’s main fault is it felt like it could end at any point. That one point where it faded to black (the transition between the second and third act), I was thinking: Wait wait a minute! That can’t be it?! But it wasn’t, so I was happy 🙂

    But my favourite quote of the movie, and so far this year was “If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.” Ooooh I’m loving Mendelsohn as of late! I’ve only seen him in this and Killing Them Softly, and he was pretty hilarious in that. The most notable performers for me are him, Gosling and Cooper (of course), and DeHaan. I think with a few more good role choices, he’ll have that little Oscar nominee asterisk beside his name.

    I have a question that’s a bit of a spoiler, so…


    Did you get chills at that one point where Jason was biking down the very same road Luke did on his motorcycle? Another such a great use of that “The Snow Angel” song.

    *** NO MORE SPOILERS ***

    My review’s going up sometime tomorrow, probably after I see Pain & Gain. In case you were wondering, lol. It’s getting an 88 on 100 from me, though! I’m sure it will be in my Top 25 at the end of the year.

    • Top 25. Oh yeah, easily. I cant imagine 25 other movies being better than this all year. LOL.

      Top ten, though, it might start to get tricky. Especially seeing as the summer hasnt started and the Oscar bait doesnt come out until year end!

      Yes, loved the ending. I thought it was very poignant. You’re right, the main selling point of this flick is the acting. The cast was great across the board… even the supporting actors and actresses. Wasn’t all that impressed with Emory Cohen, but he didnt damage the film for me or anything, either.

      “If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.” stands a shot at becoming a quote outside of just a movie quote. LOL Its that kind of excellent, in my opinion. 😀

      Great flick, glad you liked it Dan!

      • LOL true, yeah, top 10 will be really tricky! I could imagine it being a top 15, I’d say. Good point lol!

        Now, I thought his performance was adequate but it didn’t stand out — especially compared to his buddy DeHaan, but that scene with Cooper and Cohen in the interrogation room was the highlight of the young guy’s performance. His character really annoyed the hell outta me, though!

        LOL, very true Fogs 😀 I think it’s amazing, I loved it ever since I saw the trailer for the first time!

  6. Pingback: Review: ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ (2013) | Film Police

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