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

    • I have the opposite problem; I wish Gosling was in more movies. Not sure how you get the impression he’s in too many movies. I mean last fall he had two movies come out in the same month; but i think this is his next film since then – and then we will get “Only God Forgives” in July – and then an untitled Terrance Malick project before he retires. This sucks! Gosling can’t quit on us this soon; AT LEAST give us a “Drive” sequel first!!!!

      • Ha, you’re probably right – I just get the feeling that I see him all the time. I don’t dislike the guy at all – but for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve had Gosling overkill… I’m sure a lot of it is due to media coverage… and the fact that he’s always in films that I really want to see!

      • Fog’s, oh I agree that he will be back at some point, but it does appear he is retiring for the time being; retirements are often not permanent as we have seen with athletes. But retirement – break – whatever you call it I wish he’d do the DRIVE sequel before. There is a Drive sequel book, so I only have to assume they will make the movie, as well.

      • Didn’t Goslings’ character die at the end of Drive. I remember thinking “Just shows to go ya!” Does his twin take up the sequel?

  1. I thought the first act was just flawless – one of the best films I’ve seen – and then as the other acts carried out I just kept missing the emotion and intensity from the first act. I thought the other acts were good, but just not nearly as good as the first one. I wish they had saved this concept for a movie with a not-so-great first act and central character. Add this to the list of Gosling’s great performances.

    • Gosling was great. I thought Mendelsohn and Cooper were outstanding, too. I didnt really go through that “decline” you experienced, I think the first act is the best, yeah, but the rest all have their virtues too. The third act is the weakest, but that’s to say I thought the front half of it was a little jarring to get used to. The end was great. Loved the ending.

      • Yeah, I was telling Issy that I thought Mendelsohn was great in this, as well. I agree.

  2. It was a really good movie. Luke’s story was the best and Avery’s story was good but it wasn’t exciting and emotional as Luke’s. The last part I understood with the sons but I didn’t like it too much it just felt too convenient. Good review.

    • I suppose there was a bit of contrivance there at the end, though I didn’t mind it. I thought the one kid was a little over the top (one of the “flaws” I didnt want to go too far into in the review), but it didnt damage the movie for me.

      I thought Avery’s story was pretty intense, too though. I actually thought all three were!

  3. This makes clear my confusion when seeing the trailer for it two weeks ago. I couldn’t figure out why Gossling was going to become a cop then robbing a bank. The trailer was very disjointed and your review was seemless. Very helpful.

  4. Tell me you are joking about the limited release!!

    Anyway…Good review! It is indeed a good movie BUT I have to say I am quite upset that it is not as great as I expected. I thought it was going to blow me away completely but it didn’t. Gosling still rocks though! 🙂

    • Sadly, I’m not. Box Office Mojo shows that it’s still only in 514 theaters. It was actually released at the end of March!

      I agree. It didnt “completely blow me away” either, and I was hoping it would. It was still rock solid though. One of the best movies of the year so far (even though its still early!)

    • It would have blown us away I think if Gosling was somehow able to escape Cooper and then Avery dedicated his life and career to catching Luke; all the while Avery deals with corruption from the force while Luke continues to try to be a part of his son’s life. I think merging those stories together could have been a potential all-time classic.

  5. Nice review, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit as well. It isn’t without its flaws, most notably the running time, but it still maintains a level of quality that makes such flaws relatively easy to ignore. I’m not sure I’d say that this one’s a surefire Top 10er for me, but it was still a really good movie nonetheless, with awesome performances. Really, and I mentioned this in your 3 Guys review, but who knew Bradley Cooper had THAT in him?

    • Hey, after Silver Linings and this, I think the guy could be a really good dramatic actor. I do. He’s alright!

      The runtime was a big issue here. Exactly. Very much my biggest complaint. Still, as you say Chris, it keeps that level of quality throughout… it’s a really decent flick.

      Right now? I’m leaning towards honorable mention. 😉 That sort of thing. But who knows? Maybe it’ll be a weak year in movies!

      • Oh no doubt about Cooper, but as good as he was in Silver Linings, he kicked it up quite a few notches for his performance here. I just hope this film doesn’t go ignored come awards season, since it did get such an early release.

        And lol, at the rate we’re going so far, it’s looking like a bit of a weak year in film. Hopefully that doesn’t continue to be the case, though! 😛

    • Chris, what was that impressed you so much about Bradley Cooper’s performance here? I thought it was fine, but it didn’t stand out to me at all. Not saying you’re wrong, but just trying to understand.

      • I don’t recall who, but someone else said it better when they mentioned just the subtle nuances to his character, and how much he was able to convey during moments where he wasn’t required to say much, if anything, and how powerful he was able to make those inner struggles come through.

      • You should watch James McAvoy in “Trance”. His performance and the way he is able to convey emotion with his eyes is just incredible!

  6. I was worried you weren’t going to get to see this one, being a limited release and all. Glad you could 🙂
    I really liked this one. I agree that it was a bit on the long side, especially because it spans two generations, which makes it feel longer. I did like how they handed it of between them though, you described it really well with the coin thing.
    I thought the performances were great across the board, but I was especially impressed with Cooper and Mendelsohn. That part with Cooper and his kid when he was in jail…. man. He really kind of scared me there.
    I also really liked the music and the locations. My friend is actually from Schenectady so that’s cool. The trees were so beautiful, and I loved how they had turned by the end of the film. Also the music fit it perfectly and I can still hum some of it.

    • Yeah, that title track was pretty haunting. 😯

      Good! Glad to hear we’re on the same page here, Hunter. I’m right there with you on everything you said.

      It could have been a little tighter, I think. And that probably would have improved its score. But it was still an excellent movie as is I thought. 😉

  7. Seeing this one next week. Can’t wait, and your review has got me a little more pumped, so to speak. I think I just about dodged the spoiler in the comments above. It’s like I’ve developed a spoiler sense. I could feel it tingling, and scrolled past quickly!

  8. Cast is great, but the story didn’t do much for me as a whole. Just got too unrealistic and obvious by the end, where I kept on wondering what happened to Gosling and the beginning part. Good review man.

    • LOL. He certainly was tatted up! 😀

      Definitely was a good movie, though. You should check it out!

      Might be a good idea to wait for home though, I think a pause button will improve the viewing experience on this one 😉

    • I think it is. It’s got a mid 80s RT score and the people I’ve read who enjoy it really like it.

      There’s a couple of detractors out there though. The changes in cast and plot during new “chapters” seem to be losing a few people here and there…

  9. I was honestly surprised by the darkness of the films thematic elements. This was no happy movie (not that it had any obligation to be). Overall, a very very engaging story — to the point where I had no clue it had been two hours and twenty minutes since I first sat down in the theater! My general observation would say that this is how you know a movie/director has done it’s job.

    • It is… It’s always a good sign. I agree about the story, it was plenty engaging. But, personally, I realized how long it was. I definitely felt it. Not that I minded, because it was certainly an excellent movie, but it wasn’t one of those “wow, that went by so fast!” movies.

      That said, even in spite of that, I thought it was really engrossing. Glad to hear you did, as well. It was a bit dark, but I definitely thought it was really good.

  10. Pingback: Oblivion, the Lammy Awards and a little Filth | filmhipster

    • No problem! It may be the fact that this one is limited release… those movies often go under the radar. 😦

      This is definitely a good flick… Long, but well done. Well worth checking out when you get a chance! 😀

      • LOL Its funny like that sometimes, isnt it? Once you get on the right frequency – once you know about a movie, suddenly it pops up all around you! 😀

        That happens to me too.

        I’ve been watching Hannibal, too, though I havent caught last night’s yet. It’s been ok so far. Way better than Bates Motel, which has been all over the freking road. LOL 😯

      • I haven’t watched the Bates Motel. I have really loved Hannibal. I think the cast is doing a great job and I enjoy the constant play with emotions based upon all of us in the audience knowing who and what Hannibal is doing. Mads and Dancy are brilliant!

      • We’ll see. My main worry is how they expand the story into an ongoing television series… you wind up getting watered down shows a lot of times. Or shows featuring stuff that’s unrelated to the core of the series. 🙄

        No major complaints yet though. 🙂

      • I agree. I’m very interested to see how this plays out. I just finished reading Red Dragon and so far they are doing pretty well with the story line…though they are having to have a rash of serial killers and they are going to have to deal with that. There are not that many of them all at one time. But, I love watching it. The scene where Hannibal comes in while Will is discussing his specific “copy cat” case was bloody awesome. Just a tick of the eye on Mads side and Dancy is just so lost in his own head!

  11. I’m seeing this either today or tomorrow. It actually came to me theater! Glad to see Cianfrance grow as a filmmaker. I just want to see something with serious ambitions to wash the taste out of some of the trash I’ve seen this year lol

    • This should foot that bill nicely. It’s not an all time great or anything, but its definitely an intelligent, well directed drama. I enjoyed it quite a bit Blain! Hope you will as well.

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