The Place Beyond the Pines (Blu-ray)

August 5, 2013 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

One of my early picks for favorite film of this past year is also a difficult one to review. It’s not confusing, mind you, but to avoid potential spoilers, it can be tricky. I will tread the waters very carefully. The film plays out in a trilogy of stories. They are all interconnected and come full circle by the time the end credits begin to roll. The film begins with a motorcyle stunt rider as he performs a daring stunt. The stunt driver’s name is Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling). He performs a daring stunt on a motorcycle in a closed cage with two other drivers. He is planning on leaving town (for his next gig) until he discovers that his ex-lover Romina (Eva Mendes) has hidden the fact that they have a son. He quits his job and decides to stay in town. He hopes to grow closer to his son and provide a better life for him. Eventually, he attracts the attention of a small time mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). He observes his riding skills out in the woods one day. The two quickly become friends and Robin even offers Luke a job and a place to stay. He can’t pay Luke much and he eventually tells Luke of how he used to rob banks on the side. He stopped because the heat got too much. Luke decides this is the only viable option if he wants to support his family. Their plan is Luke (with his excellent riding skills) rob the banks while Robin waits for him in an unmarked utility truck. These robbery sequences alone create genuine tension. After a falling out, Luke decides to go solo on his latest robbery. It’s here that we get into a chase with the cops hot on Luke’s tail. It’s also here that Pines takes a surprising plot twist. Enter: OFFICER Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).

The second act of the film shifts focus on the Cooper character as he deals with police corruption and politics. It’s hard to reveal too much about the last two-thirds of the film without getting into spoilers (which I won’t). What I can tell you is that Pines gets into a twisted world involving politics, police corruption, and sins of the father. It’s a very ambitious film, but never cheats. It never makes a false move. Ray Liotta shows up as Office Peter Deluca. He hopes to involve Avery in one of his schemes. Officer Cross has plans of his own however. He hopes to follow his father’s footsteps and run for District Attorney. The last act of the film cuts to 15 years later and shifts focus on the sons of the Cooper and Gosling characters. Emory Cohen plays AJ Cross. He moves in with his dad (Bradley Cooper) and attends a new school for his Senior year. It’s hear that he meets Jason Glanton (Dane DeHann). Neither of them know who the other’s father is. The two quickly become friends. They get busted for drug possession and its here that more plot revelations come to surface.

While the last act is certainly the weakest of the three acts, it’s still very good. The film comes full circle in its last act and stays with you long after its over. It won’t be a film thats quickly forgotten. Pines is an unvonventional film in the best sense of the word. It avoids ever becoming predictable and resonates long after the credits start rolling. The cast is flawless. The characters here aren’t all cut and dry. The Gosling character only does bad things because he wants a better life for his family. The Cooper character has sins of his own. It’s a film with serious consequences from the actions of its characters. Director Derek Cianfrance has sharp direction. He keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The film sustains interest for its entire 140 minute running time. I cared about all the characters. It’s hard to compare this to other films because I really have never seen a film quite like it before. Do yourself a favor and pick up this remarkable film. You won’t regret it.

Video: How does it look?

The films comes to Blu-ray in a very nice 1080P AVC encoded 2.40:1 HD transfer. This is a fine tranfer, free of any print defects and other flaws. There was only a slight bit of grain in a few early scenes, but nothing major and only in a scene or two. Colors are well saturated and rendered. The green of the trees in several scenes is deep and strong. Stubble on several of the actor’s faces is also well defined. The Gosling character has several tattoos running down his arms and neck, these are also well defined.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD 5.1 track is also stellar. The front speakers get most of the work, but when the rear speakers do kick in, they come in strong and clear. The opening sequence will draw you in completely and surround you. Dialogue is always clean and clear. A party sequence late in the film also gives the rear tracks good use. The loud exhaust from Luke’s motorcycle also gives a nice boost.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Sadly, this is where the disc comes up short. Director/Co-Writer Cianfrance sits down for an audio commentary. This is a decent track. He covers the usual notes. We hear about casting choices, locations, what he wanted to achieve with the film and various other topics. Up next are 4 deleted and extended scenes. There total 10 minutes in length. All are presented in HD. The scenes are fun to see, but were wisely deleted. The last feature is a brief, 4 minute Featurette “Going to the place beyond the pines”. This is too brief to offer anything too deep. We hear from the main stars and how Gosling performed many of his own stunts. We get previews for other titles from Universal and that’s it. Since this is a combo pack, we also get a DVD copy of the film.  A digital copy and UltraViolet copy are also included.

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