The sound of the snare resonates. No other sound is heard. Just sticks striking down, the beat pulsing through the practice room. A young man hammers away, lost in his kit. Then at once, the beat breaks, with him realizing he has an audience of one. The tension between the young man and the professor is tangible as they lock eyes and he challenges him to play his very best, impress him, if he can. Not even five minutes in and the relationship is established between young Andrew Neyman and conductor Terrance Fletcher.
For a film centering on an aspiring drummer, it is essential that the right rhythm is created throughout. That is precisely what the director accomplishes. Like a snare building toward the climax, scenes steadily hammer onward: Neyman pushes himself harder, Fletcher drives him further, and onward he dives in a fury, as he aspires toward greatness.
Whiplash is a brilliantly constructed film not only for the rhythm created through scenes of building intensity, but also because of the character development. Neyman’s character is extremely believable throughout as the audience watches him almost lose his mind trying to prove himself to Fletcher. Whiplash is no happy-go-lucky story on the development of a prodigy. Instead it has a rawness to it as Newman’s motivation slowly turns to obsession. This rawness resonates throughout and is certainly a key feature in the effectiveness of the construction.
The film ends much like it started: eyes lock as the challenge to greatness is accepted. Greatness was found in Whiplash, indeed.