Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Screenplay: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Genre: Crime/Drama
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ray Liotta
Running Time: 140 minutes

The Place Beyond the Pines is an incredibly ambitious project that tackles many different themes and storylines in its near 2 1/2 hour running time. It is a crime drama that focuses on two separate families, brought together by one earth-shattering event.

The film is split into three very distinct acts, each one focusing primarily on one or two characters.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

Act one most closely resembles a thriller, and it puts the spotlight on Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stuntman with a traveling gig at local state fairs. While in the town of Altamont in upstate New York, he meets up with an ex-lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), who promptly tells him that he has a one-year-old son. Floored by this news, Luke immediately quits his job so he can stay in town and help raise his child.

Unsurprisingly, there aren’t too many decent-paying options for a heavily-tattooed and undereducated worker, so he begins exploring other options. It doesn’t take long for him to settle on a life of crime — more specifically, robbing banks. Luke has the mindset that getting a bunch of money will allow him to win Romina back and have a traditional American family. If only it were that easy.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

Act two focuses on Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie police officer who has his own set of problems. He is struggling to cope with an incident on the job, and he’s also quickly finding out just how hard it is to be a “good cop” in a department already embroiled in corruption.

The third act is quite different in tone, and it is set some fifteen years ahead. This act introduces us to the sons of Glanton and Cross (played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, respectively), as their lives become intertwined. There is a lot of teenage angst at hand here, but also some rather intriguing self discovery.

It is impossible to go into too much detail without giving away crucial plot elements, but the way the stories are connected is fantastic. We are given plenty of time with every major character in the film, and even though they all make their share of boneheaded decisions, it’s still easy to become attached to them.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

This is a testament to both the writing and the cast. Ryan Gosling’s Glanton is almost an evolution of the Driver character from Drive, and his mannerisms and reactions are perfect while performing his daring heists. Bradley Cooper does a serviceable job as the bright-eyed newbie cop, but perhaps the best performance of all comes from young Dane DeHaan. Best known for his work in the HBO show In Treatment or the 2012 film Chronicle, DeHaan is startlingly effective here, and he is continuing to show he has a bright future in the business. The supporting cast is terrific as well, with Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood and Rose Byrne all playing small but critical roles.

The Place Beyond the Pines suffers slightly from the transition of a thrilling opening act into a more straightforward drama, but it’s still a highly entertaining film overall. The lengthy running time is not an issue, and not once did I grow bored; how could I, with its constantly shifting narrative? Director Derek Cianfrance deserves major credit for bringing such a wide encompassing picture to fruition.

8.5/10

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37 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Most of it is good, but when it’s bad; it’s obvious and sticks out like a sore thumb. Last act, I’m looking at you. Good review Eric.

  2. Fogs' Movie Reviews says:

    Epic movie.

    One of the best of the year so far, though admittedly, its been a kind of a week year. 😦 DeHaan definitely is awesome, he’s an actor to watch out for, there’s no doubt about it. Glad you enjoyed this one too E!

  3. SDG says:

    I liked it. I would say the Best of year so far.. but I have only seen 6, 3 out of them are Hindi. So that doesn’t mean much. 🙂

    However I had problem with whole Ray Liotta plot. It doesn’t bring the film down in any way, at least not in my opinion, but after the third act, it seemed completely unnecessary. He could have cut that whole plot and we wouldn’t have missed a beat. That’s a problem.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hmm, I can see where you’re coming from on that. But then again, Cooper’s character wouldn’t have ended up in the position he did if it weren’t for the subplot involving Liotta and the other cops. That corruption helped develop him into who he was.

  4. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Haven’t seen it somehow. I think I saw a few not so positive reviews and ended up letting it roll by. There’s still a chance to see it in the theater and I just might. I’m glad DeHaan got a nod from you. I thought his under appreciated work in Chronicle was some of the best the film had to offer.
    Great review Eric. Succinct as always.

  5. Griff says:

    Nice review, we gave this one the full 3 guys treatment a bit ago. We all enjoyed it. Great performances by Cooper and Gosling. My only complaint was that it seemed like some of could have been left on the cutting room floor to reduce the run time and although I enjoyed the third act, it was the weakest of the three.

  6. Chris says:

    I agree impossible to go into too much detail without giving away crucial plot elements. I love the music that was used in the trailer. Probably the best film I saw in the cinema in 2013. I found his last film Blue Valentine had terrific individual scenes, but was overall a bit uneven for pacing. This time I didn’t have that issue, and like you, I was never bored during Pines.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Awesome, sounds like we are pretty much in agreement here! I had a similar reaction to Blue Valentine, too. I thought it was very good, but it felt like it was missing something. Really curious to see what Cianfrance does next.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      I’m still up in the air on seeing Gangster Squad, but yeah, I’ll probably end up renting it for Gosling and the rest of the cast. Have you seen Half Nelson? That might be my favorite performance from him (aside from Drive).

  7. hellomimosa says:

    I was so surprised at the route this movie took. Admittedly, I originally went to see it because of Ryan Gosling, but damn, the story was amazing and I loved the development of Cooper’s character. And when DeHaan’s character took him into the woods…OMG! Such a good scene. Definitely cried during that one.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      I know exactly what you mean. All I knew going into the film was that it had three very distinct acts, but still, the transition between them took me by surprise. It’s a testament to the film that it was able to maintain interest even with such big changes in tone.

  8. Lights Camera Reaction says:

    Nice review. Sadly, I was very disappointed in this film. The film starts off with an exciting and unpredictable story that moves into a police corruption scandal that we’ve seen so many times before. The story is quickly running out of steam as everything gets less exciting and turns into a cliché of better films.

    I can appreciate the cinematography and music though.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      We’ll have to agree to disagree here. 🙂 I get where you’re coming from though — there’s no way the film could keep up with the frantic pace from the opening act. I thought the other two stories were still quite interesting.

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