A young drummer auditions for a highly competitive teacher.
It's the time of the year when awards-worthy movies are legion, but Whiplash is one that you really should take notice of.
It's the second feature from 29 year old Damien Chazelle and is based on elements of his own life being part of a highly competitive jazz group in high school. He first crafted a 12 minute short version of the tale, helping to get him the attention – and cash – to pump it up to a full 107 minutes.
And I'm pretty sure I've never seen anything quite like it. While the tale – of a young man trying to live up to the whims of a demanding teacher – has been told before, Chazelle brings it to the screen in a way that's fresh and remarkable.
Perhaps its the autobiographical element which brings in this extra sense of energy but there's a rawness to Whiplash, an intensity which I've never seen in a film of this sub-genre. And I have to admit that this comes from someone who has little interest in music and has never read a musical note in his life.
So it's not about the music, its about the relationship. And as the film progresses it becomes about where talent and tribulation meet, where the germ of ability might flourish into something great, or founder under extraordinary weight.
J.K. Simmons just picked up a Golden Globe for his performance here and he's one to watch for the Oscar. Fletcher is a sinuous thing, a manipulator of the minds of men who is both father and devil. He's got some incredible lines here, and many that will make you laugh, but the cruelty on display is incredibly raw and mesmerising to behold.
It's better not to know too much about the story going in but Miles Teller is perfect in the part of the rather ordinary Andrew. He's a kid with some guts and some raw talent – like many who will pass through the halls of his prestigious music school. It's only when he meets J.K. Simmons' Fletcher that he gets a glimpse of what he might be, and falls into an obsession with no clear end.
That's what's so exciting about Whiplash, despite the familar setting you really can't tell where it's going. And while I felt the second hour started out with a bit of a lull, the ending (particularly the last 10 to 15 minutes) is one of the most exhilerating and pulse-pounding experiences I can remember in a cinema.
2015 has only just started but I think there's a good chance I've already seen my film of the year – Whiplash is just that good. Go see it now.