There are great performances in The Place Beyond the Pines, but Ryan Gosling truly owns his. He is Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider turned bank robber to be able to provide for his infant son. He has that drive and self-unawareness required to completely immerse oneself into a character and be identified with it. And those clothes he wears (including ripped-in sleeveless t-shirts, leather trousers and a pair of skull printed pants), looking beautifully dated (the story is set in the 1990s) – they are part of what makes him so singular. He is a man out of a certain time and place, and of his own world, and he must stay that way. A startling presence. The beat-up, defiant red leather jacket reminds me of another hero outfitted in a red windbreaker. Both are iconic looks, but James Dean’s was meant to become the voice of a generation and to be copied for decades to come, while Luke’s is meant only to be noticed and remembered. It expresses well the uniqueness of the character.
Derek Cianfrance’s film is about manhood, fatherhood, class and fate, an epic with interesting narrative and daring plot turns. Music, direction, camera work, editing, they are a whole. I knew nothing about the subject before watching the film, and I am glad I didn’t. That tracking shot that opens the movie was enough to grab my attention and it felt rewarding that the film lived up to the high expectations a great beginning makes you hope for – only it’s better than that, because it takes you by surprise, and not many movies, even good ones, are capable of that.