Pining for Redemption – A review of The Place Beyond the Pines
Summary: Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling star in this movie about two men who struggle with the ideal of doing what is right versus doing what’s convenient.
Life is a series of choices. Some of them will be the right ones and some will be mistakes. The trick is learning to deal with the choices afterwards and accepting the consequences of your actions, both right and wrong.
Gosling stars as Luke, a troubled young man who travels as a stunt bike rider with a carnival. He’s good, too. But his commitment to the fair wavers when he meets a woman with whom he once had a fling and discovers that he has a son.
In one of the questionable ethical dilemmas that the characters face, Luke teams up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a mechanic who convinces him that, with his motorcycle riding skills, he would be a great bank robber. Luke agrees to give it a shot.
The first half of the movie focuses on Luke, but the second half is relegated to Avery (Cooper), the cop who confronts the bank robber. Avery is young, ambitious and driven too, but works for a police department rife with corruption that threatens to suck him down.
Each man makes choices and those choices create a dramatic film that is both riveting and compelling. As in real life, there are no easy choices here. The movie meanders through their lives, but stays a course that will inevitably reach it’s far-from-predictable conclusion.
Gosling and Cooper are both gifted actors who bring the multifaceted characters to life. Even though the story barrels them down the chosen path where we see the struggle to make the right choices turn into poor ones, there is still hope that they will discover the mistakes and turn things around on their own.
Those choices transcend the first generation to the next when Avery’s son meets Luke’s son. The same questionable dilemmas face the younger characters and they deal with them almost as well as their parents.
The Place Beyond the Pines refers to the Indian word Schenectady where much of this movie was filmed. Evidently, the bank of Scotia allowed the bank robbery scenes to be filmed on location. Much of the backdrops in the movie are some recognizable landmarks from the city and the community.
The film also stars a number of other familiar Hollywood talents, including Eva Mendes, who plays Gosling’s love interest, a woman who has moved on and has a strong relationship with another man yet still feels attraction for her baby’s father. Harris Yulin plays a retired judge and Avery’s father. Bruce Greenwood plays the district attorney who looks into Avery’s activities.
The only real weakness in the story is the way the script seems a bit disjointed. Perhaps it’s a product of editing, but occasionally the story jumps around and gets lost, Fortunately, though, the acting is top notch so when the story finds the way back, the characters are capable of drawing us back in to where we need to be.
The Place Beyond the Pines is not a fun movie nor is it meant to be, but it will keep you glued to the edge of your seat. It requires one to evaluate their own moral center and question whether you also would make the same life choices as these individuals given similar circumstances. It will also make you more reluctant to condemn them for their actions. I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars.