Another Place and Time

The Place Beyond The Pines - 2013
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
see link for writing team

The first thing to understand about The Place Beyond The Pines is that most descriptions fail to explain it adequately.  From what I'd read, I expected some kind of protracted game of cat and mouse between Ryan Gosling's motorcycle-stunt-rider-turned-bank-robber and Bradley Cooper's ambitious-but-stalwart-cop-in-a-corrupt-department.  Sort of like a, say... Vanishing Point versus Copland or Heat meets The Departed... 'cept, you know, with motorcycles.

Well, it's not that.  At least not the way you think it is.

The Place Beyond the Pines is really three movies in the space of a movie-and-a-half.  The first act belongs to Gosling's character, Luke.  He is indeed a sideshow stunt rider who walks away from his job when he learns that he left more behind than tender memories the last time he passed through Schenectady, NY.  Eva Mendes is the mother of his child who can't decide what she wants.  In order to support his son and be involved (as his own father wasn't), Luke ends up robbing banks using his riding skills to get away swiftly.  When his partner (the brains of the operation) backs out on him, Luke's next job goes from bad to worse.

This leads to a fateful encounter with Bradley Cooper as Avery, a rookie cop with a law degree and big plans for the future.  The second act is his, as the fallout from the encounter brings him the kind of notoriety that could help to fulfill those ambitions, but also involves him with the inner circle of corrupt good-ol'-cops.  His intermittent conscience leads him into conflict with the cops, but for the time, ambition has all the answers.

The third act is set 15 years later and belongs to their teenage sons who are unaware of the history between their fathers.  The choices of the past ripple through the future, shaking the lives of all involved.

Each act is very different; not merely in perspective but in tone and momentum, but they do add up to a really impressive and satisfying arc.  It's an action crime flick, then a cop drama and finally a coming of age movie.  The film doesn't judge the characters or even really push the story very hard.  All the events flow naturally from a single choice.  It's an engaging consideration of the way that choices echo through time, giving particular attention (intentional or not) to self-defeating behaviors.  Luke and Avery are both haunted by their fathers in their own choices, which gets passed on to their own sons.

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