Review: The title The Place Beyond the Pines is a Mohawk word for the city ‘Schenectady’, justifiably suggesting the mood and belonging of the film, is undeniably a tale of redemption and moral justification told through the interconnected sets of three stories. This is particularly a poignant tale, a ‘mood-piece’ where the film deals with the importance of family and the notion of sin; told through various relationships and misfortune, this movie successfully elevates the very scope of the moral drama. Clearly meant not only for entertainment but also as a contemporay reflection on the ethical crux of lives in contemporary times, The Place Beyond the Pines is reminiscent of various films (Alezandro Gonzales Inarritu’s 21 Grams and Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales) in its quest of finding the inspiration and tone required for this kind of subject.
The story of a motorcycle stunt racer (Duke played by Ryan Gosling), exercising the doomed choices of his destiny for providing good life for his family (repentance for his sin) and the consequent interlinking of further stories through this initial plot drives the movie and produces the much unsettling effect intentionally. On the surface, the film appears structurally defined as the set of three stories, all related to the first act of motorcycle stunt racer in its narrative, imparts the element of classical Greek tragedy in a contemporary fashion. Nonetheless, it is a film which needs a closer look, because of the complex nature of the underlying theme, it manages succesfully in effectively commenting on the whole idea of sin and the intensive struggle of an individual in dealing with it. Hence, primarily a tale where individuals are dealing with their past, it becomes so revelatory and urgent to witness the repurcussions on the present and the future.
The story starts off with a brilliant opening sequence of a motorbike stunt in fare (oblique commentary on the uncertain and flummoxed life of the motorcycle stunt racer, played by Ryan Gosling), sets the tone of the story in a exteremely crafted manner. Unable to deal with his present (which is the result of his past), he takes on to bank robbery and in particular confrontation wih a cop (played by Bradley Cooper), he accidentlally gets shot. Now the focus of the film shifts to the cop who becomes heavily burdened by the guilt of killing, he undertakes the task of exposing the corrupt police department. This act can be seen fundamentally as compensation of his sin (in his viewpoint), thereby restoring the sanity of his existence, and his relationship with himself & society. After this, the third part of the story takes place where the son of the cop and the son of the motorcycle stunt-racer (born out of an affair with his girlfriend Romina, played by Eva Mendes) become main leads (the son of the motorcycle stunt-racer essentially being the protagonist) and in the end the film tries to summarize in a prophetic fashion. The cinematography is top-notch, creating the brilliant atmosphere of this entrapped tale of morality & the sound design is a craft in exercise with the conscious inclusion and exclusion of background score. This also confirms the fact that when required, the absence of a background score itself accounts for the aural commentary over the scene.
With all the brilliant aspects of the movie described above, The Place Beyond the Pines comes with its imperfections. The major flaw is its ambition and the transition from the second act to the third act. There is an inherent gap when the story shifts to the next timeline and this is the area where clearly the film suffers. Although it sincerely tries to match up with the derivative treatment of the story, still it becomes long and boring sometimes. Intelligent editing would have been employed here with better results. Ray Liotta is wasted in the role of a corrupt cop and it is sad to see such talent not getting much screentime. Despite this, one can overlook its flaws and watch The Place Beyond the Pines for its moral scope, unsettling theme and the legacy of sins passed on through the generations.