I rather enjoyed Blue Valentine, so when i heard that writer/director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling were teaming up again, I got pretty excited, especially after I saw the trailer.
The result is another fine cinematic gem. What we get here is a sprawling, gritty epic drama about fathers, sons, actions, and consequences, and the impact a legacy can have.
The film is divided into three interconnected chapters. Part 1 following a carnival motorcycle daredevil who, upon hearing from an ex that he has a son, decides to turn his life around and acquire a decent amount of money to provide a decent livelihood. He goes about this by using his skill set to perform a series of daring robberies.
These robberies lead into Act II where the action is focused on a decorated but troubled cop who tries to do the right thing, which proves hard due to mounting pressure from his less than ethical colleagues.
The film's final third takes place about 15 years after the events of the first two-thirds, and follows two teenage boys whose growing friendship and individual lives are tested when they learn about their pasts and their fathers.
This is a really ambitious, powerful, and gripping drama. It's also really long, somewhat slow, and has a final act that, while decent, isn't nearly as good or interesting as the rest of it. It ends on a decent note though, so that makes up for it, but still.
On the technical side, this one is clearly an artsy/indie type of deal, but that's fine by me. The cinematography is gorgeous, there's some great lighting, mood, and atmosphere, and you know a film is trying for greatness when it opens up with a killer long take tracking shot. The music by famed musician Mike Patton perfectly fits the vibe of the material, and really highlights the fact that, while the film does have a solid plot and characters, it's primarily about the aforementioned mood, tone, and atmosphere.
As the daredevil, Ryan Gosling is awesome. It's another killer gritty notch in his belt, and if he decides to do more of this type of stuff than mainstream romance fare, that'd be just fine by me. Eva Mendes turns in a stellar performance as Gosling's lady, and it's good seeing her show the world that she does indeed have acting chops. It's just unfortunate that she doesn't display them often enough. Bradley Cooper is a joy to watch as the decent but haunted cop, and it's good to see him expand his horizons acting wise. Rose Byrne is unfortunately underused as Cooper's wife, but even then she lends some credibility to the role. Ray Liotta is fine, though nothing special as one of Cooper's superiors, and, as one of the two boys facing a troubled legacy, Dane DeHaan is pretty stinkin' good.
So yeah, for the most part, I really liked this. It has a few issues here and there (namely pacing and the potency of the final act), but in the end, this is a really good film, but not quite the masterpiece it gets hailed as.