Film structure has conditioned us to expect certain things: we all think a movie will be about Ryan Gosling when it spends forty-five minutes or so setting him up. But no. The Place Beyond The Pines does things differently and it takes a big mental adjustment to leave behind a character we've emotionally invested in and put all that effort into Bradley Cooper, who takes up the baton. Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance isn't satisfied with just that, though, doing it all over again later on.
Gosling plays a nomadic carnival stunt rider who has just discovered he has a son with Eva Mendes, the result of a one night stand one year ago. Hoping to be a father and a husband but with little cash to do so, Gosling turns to Ben Mendelsohn's junkyard mechanic for help to rob banks in the area. One such sortie leads him into a confrontation with Bradley Cooper's rookie cop, who uses his newfound hero status to climb the ladder at work, weeding out corrupt officers like Ray Liotta.
To say anymore would be criminal. Similar to Blue Valentine there's an inescapable air of melancholy, that everything you trust is not what it seems and that life will corrupt you, but to further analyse the theme would also give away too much. Maybe it's best to concentrate on the performances, which can't be faulted. With a cigarette coolly hanging from his lips, skilfully handling a blade that plays with his tattooed abs and slipping on a jacket that's James Dean red, the opening shot of Ryan Gosling will do his hunk status no harm. Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper will turn some heads as they try this serious acting thing and the quietly brilliant Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly) showcases once again his knack for breathing life into minor characters.
With Gosling's outlaw filling out the first section and Cooper's ambitious cop controlling the second, the third, despite boasting new talents like Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Emory Cohen, doesn't have the same oomph. The fact that it ties up more conveniently than a Greek tragedy doesn't help matters either.
If you're willing to go with it, The Place Beyond The Pines will deliver.