- May 9, 2003
The Place Beyond The Pines Blu-ray Review
The Place Beyond The Pines motorcycles onto Blu-ray with a great presentation of its picture and sound, but with no real explanation of how such an interesting idea went so far off course. Derek Cianfrance’s attempted epic follow-up to his previous Blue Valentine gets a variety of performances and some genuinely daring scenework, but it simply never achieves the dirty fame it clearly has ambition to claim. Viewers trying to figure out what this movie is about are recommended to disregard the flashy trailer and think instead about a more complex idea with many more parts than the movie or the filmmakers are capable of managing. The Blu-ray presents the movie in solid picture and sound, with a thoughtful commentary that may be more revealing about what Cianfrance doesn’t see in his movie than what he does see. Ryan Gosling fans are recommended to rent this before purchasing, as it’s not the movie they may think it is.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: X Hr. X Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/06/2013
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
The Place Beyond The Pines is a movie that’s clearly swinging for the fences but winds up with something closer to a ground rule double. Its marketing campaign features a classic example of a misleading trailer. Anyone who has seen the trailer would understandably think it’s a small-scale crime story featuring Ryan Gosling as a guy on the wrong side of the law. This would be partially accurate, but only at a small level. The actual movie runs around 2 hours and 21 minutes long, which should be the first indication to any discriminating viewer that a very different film is going on here than the box cover or the trailer is revealing. To keep this simple for people who haven’t actually seen the film, let us start with the acknowledgement that the movie does feature scenes with Ryan Gosling as a motorbike star who turns to crime, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of the movie. Bradley Cooper also appears, as a cop whose path intersects with Gosling, but, again, that’s not completely accurate. Without spoiling anything (as I will do in the following paragraphs), I’ll just say that the movie has more epic ambitions than that brief description would encompass. It’s just a shame that the movie is incapable of achieving its ambition. There are too many long, lingering indie-movie moments where the camera lingers on a close-up of this actor or that as they give a loaded facial expression to camera while they exhale on their cigarette, and too many indie-movie shortcuts for this film to achieve the greatness it craves. Fans of Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are likely to have some major issues with this movie along the way. Again, without spoiling anything, this is definitely a movie to rent before purchasing.
MAJOR SPOILERS HERE. DO NOT READ THESE PARAGRAPHS IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED: Okay, with that header, we can now delve into what exactly went wrong here, starting with a rundown of the story. The movie purports to be a minor crime saga featuring Ryan Gosling as Luke, a man driven (pun intended) to a life of crime that has consequences. That’s great, as far as being a setup for a cool indie movie. And the movie starts out being exactly what you see in the trailer, what with Gosling exchanging long, cigarette smoke-filled looks of attraction with Eva Mendes as he plays the part of a traveling motorcycle stunt performer in a fair. The initial kicker of the plot happens nearly right away, as the fair visits Schenectady, New York and Luke discovers that a local girl, Romina (Mendes), has a son from their fling of a prior year. Luke gives up the fair and decides to stay in town to try to be a father to his son and respark the interest between him and his former girl. Except that Romina now has a stable boyfriend (Mahershala Ali) and wants nothing to do with him. So Luke resorts to a life of crime on his motorcycle, robbing banks in the area, thinking that the influx of cash will help him create some kind of family life. Now, at this point, the viewer is thinking that this lines up fairly closely with the trailer. And they’d be right. But that’s just the first 45 minutes of a 2 hour and 21 minute story. It turns out that we’re dealing with a triple movie here. There are three sections to this movie, each roughly lasting about 45 minutes long. The first section is the one featured in the trailer, starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Ben Mendelsohn as his boss/accomplice. But 45 minutes into the movie, one of those bank robberies goes disastrously wrong. And that’s the situation where rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) traps Luke in an upstairs bedroom and shoots him right out the window to his bloody death in the driveway. That’s right. Luke dies about 45 minutes in. And the movie suddenly shifts to its second act – an examination of Avery Cross and his problems with the corrupt police force in Schenectady. With very little drumrolling, the movie quickly becomes the story of how Avery deals with his home life and a one-year old son, as well as some very bad cops, particularly Pete DeLuca (Ray Liotta), and manages to turn his problems into a major political coup for himself. Now, the viewer may be reeling from this switch, as it’s a fairly abrupt 90 degree turn, similar to the killing of Janet Leigh in Psycho. And yet, we’re not done yet. As the infamous Ginsu commercial says, “But wait, there’s more!” After about 45 minutes of watching Avery wrestle with his conscience over killing Luke and his issues with the corrupt cops, the movie suddenly shifts again, using the fateful words “FIFTEEN YEARS LATER”. And this is where the movie really finds its purpose. Where the first section showed us Luke’s trouble with the wrong side of the law and the second section showed us Avery’s trouble with the right side of the law, the third section shows us the consequences of both men’s actions. In the third section, the movie is driven by the two sons of the earlier parts of the movie. We’re quickly introduced to AJ (Emory Cohen), the rebellious son of Avery, and through AJ’s new school assignment in Schenectady, we meet Jason (Dane DeHaan), the bike-riding son of Luke. The two boys at 17 years of age take to each other for a variety of reasons, and we see multiple situations of them meeting, agreeing, hanging out, smoking pot, partying, etc, before Jason realizes the truth about what happened to his father some 16 years prior and realizes who his new friend really is. The movie builds to a confrontation between Jason and Avery that should be more interesting than it winds up being. In the end, we are left with an ambivalent shot of Jason riding off into the distance on a motorcycle, perhaps to repeat his father’s mistakes, perhaps to fulfill his father’s dream of getting away from it all.
MORE MAJOR SPOILERS: On the surface, such a plot idea should work. Or at least, it should provide the viewer with some interesting food for thought. But it doesn’t work here. Part of this is due to the movie constantly depending on indie-movie techniques to surprise the viewer with strange ways of shooting two people having a conversation. Again, this is the situation of the smoldering look over the smoldering cigarette being held for far too long. Along the way, there are a few good performances to keep the viewer interested. Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes do fine in the first act, as does Ben Mendelsohn as a creepy auto mechanic who fancies himself a bank robber. The second act is a mixed bag. Bradley Cooper, frankly, isn’t that interesting playing a rookie cop lying about how he got his medal. Ray Liotta, on the other hand, does a great job doing his usual routine of menace and duplicity as corrupt cop DeLuca. And Bruce Greenwood provides oily goodness in his role as a moral-high-ground DA who shows his true colors when Avery pushes him to do his job. However, as we get to the third act, it’s very difficult to buy the time jump the movie tells the audience to accept. To be frank, in the earlier sections of the movie, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes look considerably older than the parts they are meant to play. Theoretically, their characters are in their early to mid 20s. But as soon as we see them, we know they’re at least in their very late 30s. This isn’t a problem initially, and it wouldn’t have been one without that 15 year jump. But after that, we’re left with the problem that Cooper and Mendes (as well as Rose Byrne) simply don’t look old enough to make the time shift believable. Ironically, the actors look too old to play their parts in the earlier section of the movie and too young to play their parts later on. Beyond this problem, there’s the issue of the final third of the movie really falling into the hands of Emory Cohen and Dane DuHaan. And while these young actors are pretty good, they’re not experienced enough for anyone to believe that they’re the sons of the two actors who were spotlit in the earlier acts. Finally, where the movie should soar in its climax as we see all the chickens of the first 90 minutes coming home to roost, it fizzles instead. The movie seems to leave the viewer with a vague ending that implies that the sons will most likely end up going down the same roads as their parents. Which is an unsatisfying ending, to say the least.
FINAL SPOILERS: Again, there is a really good idea percolating here – that of the sins of the fathers being passed down to the sons and repeated infinitum. Cianfrance plays on this idea in multiple ways throughout, including having scenes in each act that present the same kind of beats we saw earlier, only in a different context. The same prison cell that Luke visits in the first act is then used by the busted cops in the second act, and then used by Jason in the third act. The kind of interrogation faced by Avery in the second act is ironically reversed in the third act as he deals with his son. There’s a running motif about the relationships between fathers and sons. Luke bemoans the fact that he never knew his father in the first act, Avery uses his own father for his political advantage in the second act, and the third act shows a stark contrast between Avery’s lack of any real relationship with AJ and Jason’s fairly positive relationship with Kofi. There’s a great sense of irony that Avery’s public persona is that of a happy family man while he’s secretly hiding much darker problems, and this works to a certain extent. But by the end of the movie, the story just peters out. For a movie with this interesting of a premise, that can’t help but be a disappointment. One final note, about the title: Many viewers may be as puzzled as I was in trying to figure out the meaning of “The Place Beyond the Pines”. The simplest answer is that this is the English translation of the Mohawk word “Schenectady”. Anyone who already knew that, is about three steps ahead of where I was when I finally figured it out. Derek Cianfrance says that it can also refer to the place that Jason is eventually trying to get to once he escapes the town. The viewer will have to decide for themselves if this is meaningful or just another odd indie-film touch – the odd title that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the movie until you start looking up definitions.
The Place Beyond The Pines has been released as a digital download as of July 23rd, and was released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD this week. The Blu-ray comes with a few extras, including a thoughtful commentary by Derek Cianfrance, a few quick deleted scenes and extensions, and a very short EPK featurette. The DVD includes everything from the Blu-ray, in standard definition. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD release on a second disc within the plastic case.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The Place Beyond The Pines is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer at an average 30 mbps which brings out the grain and the texture of the Kodak film stock on which the movie was shot. The texture is what one would expect from a gritty independent film. The transfer also delivers on the numerous close-ups, showing plenty of fine detail of actors’ faces. Flesh tones look accurate and the lush green scenery around Schenectady gets a great showcase here.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The Place Beyond The Pines is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (averaging 4.0 mbps, but rising to 5.3 mbps during the big scenes) that has a surprising amount of atmosphere and surround material included. The opening tracking shot with Ryan Gosling walking through the fair is a tour de force of sound, culminating with the roar of the motorcycles as the act begins. Later scenes range wildly between very quiet personal moments and wall-of-sound party scenes.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
The Blu-ray presentation of The Place Beyond The Pines comes with a few extras, including Derek Cianfrance’s commentary, a few deleted scenes and an EPK featurette. The packaging also includes the DVD release, which includes everything from the Blu-ray in standard definition. A digital copy is available online via pocket BLU or via a code included in the packaging. I should note that I was unable to make any use of BD-Live with this title. However, I should note that recent Universal Blu-rays, including this one, now have a RESUME feature, allowing the viewer to stop playback and pick it up where they left off. This appears to be one of the normal elements to be found in the new configuration of Universal Blu-rays, along with a slightly retuned menu.
Commentary with Derek Cianfrance (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Derek Cianfrance provides a scene-specific commentary, watching the movie along with the viewer and offering a fair amount of information about the production. Cianfrance is a quiet but steady speaker, so a close listen to this track will actually yield many rewards. Stories along the way include Cianfrance’s account of how his original cameraman quit the movie after having a nightmare about the opening shot, and a long but rewarding discussion about the good things that can come from mistakes on the set. Cianfrance notes one shot featuring Ray Liotta where Liotta missed his mark but inadvertently improved the scene by presenting himself to camera in a way where you only see one eye and part of his face. Cianfrance is clearly well versed on the smallest details, as he refers to an American flag flying in the distance of the final shot as a big thing when it’s actually difficult to notice even on a 65” screen.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 9:52 Total) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Four scenes and/or scene extensions are presented here. Most of this material is a bit extraneous, but the extension of an early haggling scene between Luke and his boss from the first act has some resonance. (That scene is mirrored by an Avery scene in the second act which remains in the theatrical cut.) The scenes can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.
Going to The Place Beyond The Pines (1080p, 4:31) (AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a fairly short featurette with some interview material with various cast members and the usual assembly of footage from the film and on-set video. It’s really an EPK promo piece – for the real meat, you’ll need to listen to the commentary.
Previews – This is an option which changes, depending on your internet connection. If you have your player connected to the web, you’ll be given some BD-Live trailers that stream to your player. If the connection isn’t working so good, I noted a small selection of trailers on the disc that can be individually access.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English (@448 kbps), French and Spanish. The DVD includes the commentary, the deleted scenes and the featurette. The DVD also has a “Previews” menu including trailers for The American, The Debt, Brokeback Mountain, Being Flynn, Pariah, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Beginners and Hanna.
Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie for your laptop or portable device.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
The Place Beyond The Pines is a movie with a lot on its mind that unfortunately doesn’t deliver on its promises. Some of the performances are quite good, including Ryan Gosling and Bruce Greenwood, but the movie has some major structural and story problems that inevitably cause it to fall short of its epic ambitions. And there’s that matter of the completely misleading trailer to boot. The Blu-ray release offers solid picture and sound, as well as an effective commentary by director Derek Cianfrance. Fans of Blue Valentine may want to rent this, as may fans of Ryan Gosling.
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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