Whiplash tells the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a jazz drummer who has recently been accepted in to one of the best music schools in the country. The film opens with Andrew tearing away at the drums with relentless execution and exhaustive precision. The rippling drums and cymbals jar the audience to life and prepare them for a ride as hard hitting and pulse pounding as any live rock or jazz show.

Andrew’s time at his school isn’t as smooth as the jazz he plays, but rather it’s as tumultuous and rough as the rock bands he spurns away. His head teacher, Mr. Fletcher, is played by J.K. Simmons, who completely shines in the role. Simmons is a perfectionist musician who expects nothing but perfection from his students, and will stop at nothing to receive just that. Blood is spilled, crude insults are hurled, and rehearsals last until dawn to get only the best from his class. This drive to impress spins Andrew’s life out of control, resulting in him becoming a man who pushes himself too hard.

Whiplash brings to mind 2010’s Black Swan; a haunting look into the life of an artist driven too hard by expectations, perfectionism, and a ruthless instructor. Unlike Swan, Whiplash is more grounded in reality and doesn’t contain scenes that evoke nausea and the urge to shield your eyes. In what is Chazelle’s sophomore feature (following on from Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench), the talented young filmmaker shows signs that he is a director who will be around for a very long time. This accomplished picture isn’t too far removed from the effortless fluidity of the music within it. Pulling the audience in, raising their pulses, then bringing them down just in time to bring them home with an unforgettable finale that will make you want to jump out of your seat in applause.

Teller, who shined in last years The Spectacular Now, hits all the right notes with Andrew, a character extremely relatable to anyone who has ever been driven enough to be the best at what they do. But this film belongs to Simmons, as he plays a character as comparable to the greatest villains of the last decade. But, somehow he is a real human being. A teacher who wants to push his students to be the greatest they can possibly be. But he does so in such an evil, unlikable and hurtful way that leaves the audience cringing when they aren’t laughing. This film raises questions on where we are as a society when it comes to education, training and coaching. It makes you wonder how times have changed and whether or not we are in a better place than we were 30 or 40 years ago.

Overall this film is a sweet and engaging composition. Led by a fantastic relationship between teacher and student, incredible music performances, impressive direction, and a final scene that you will remember forever. Whiplash is one of the best, most gratifying films of the year – and an exhilarating cinematic experience like no other.

By Nathan McVay.