Full of ambition, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) starts his mission to become one of the greatest ever jazz drummers by getting accepted into the prestigious Schaefer music conservatory. He has heard of a legendary instructor there by the name of Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmons), a man who can make or break careers. Andrew knows that he has to get this notorious teacher to notice his talent in order to start his way to the top. So once he gets invited to join Fletcher’s top notch jazz ensemble, the young drummer thinks he’s nearly made it already. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, since Fletcher turns out to be a merciless asshole whose main method of teaching is verbally abusing his students like an army drill sergeant. If any student is just about to go slightly out of tune or out of step, this teacher will humiliate the poor bastard to pieces, preferably in front of all his fellow students. Andrew soon experiences firsthand what it feels like to be torn to pieces by Fletcher in front of the whole ensemble.
In order to get the opportunity to become one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time Andrew needs Fletcher’s support first. But becoming one of the best drummers the world has ever seen is easy compared to how hard it is to get Fletcher to like his playing. But the young drummer doesn’t give up, instead he pushes himself to get better and better in order to get recognition from his mentor. He practises and practices until there’s blood on the snares and blood on the cymbals, and even then he continues. But no matter how hard Andrew tries, it is never good enough for his cold-hearted instructor.
Andrew becomes more and more obsessed with his drumming and as a result he lets everything else around him fall to pieces and alienates the little family and friends he has. Fletcher’s harsh way of pushing his students beyond their limits is taking its toll on Andrew who is literally turning insane.
After a million movies, books and self-help seminars that tell us we can everything we want to be if we just try hard enough, here is a movie that warns us for the dangers of trying too hard, and asks us to what extent it’s worth it to sacrifice everything for that one big goal? That idea alone makes Whiplash incredibly refreshing and original, but it is the execution of the idea that makes this film so terrific. Director Damien Chazelle has done an incredible job with this confidently directed swinging piece of filmmaking, with a pace that never lets down. Just like Neyman himself, Chazelle never misses a beat. He also manages to get superb performances from his cast. Miles Teller is fantastic as the ambitious Andrew, and it is purely due to Teller’s charisma that you keep caring for the main character while he becomes more and more of an egocentric asshole through the course of the movie.
But the real star of the film is J.K. Simmons. We already knew Simmons could be very funny from his appearances as newspaper editor Jonah Jameson, where he brought great comic relief to the original Spider-Man Trilogy. We also knew he can be insidious and menacing, as seen in the TV-series Oz. Well, Terence Fletcher is both hilarious and threatening at the same time. Remember seeing Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight? Or Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men? Or Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds? This is one of those roles where you know you’re watching a performance that is going to be talked about for decades to come – and also a performance that makes him an absolute shoe-in to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Go see it now!