The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie in three parts, tracking the lives of a doomed loser and a conflicted cop and contemplating the interlocked fates they pass on to their children.
Fortunately–this being a film that runs two hours and 20 minutes–there are also propulsive jolts of police corruption, botched robberies and hair-raising chases. Director Derek Cianfrance’s last movie, Blue Valentine, was a powerful downbeat chamber piece; here he’s going for grand sweep, and I think his gift for mood and structure (he cowrote the script), and his trust in the talents of some fine actors, lifts the picture above whatever objections there might be to its deterministic worldview.
The story takes a number of surprising narrative turns and is packed with intricate character detail, which mustn’t be spoiled. The movie opens with a five-minute tracking shot in which we meet a motorcycle daredevil named Luke (Ryan Gosling). The camera surveys his bare torso, thick with tattoos, and then follows along behind his blond dye-job as he traverses the midway of the traveling carnival in which he works.
Luke makes a bare-bones living roaring around inside a big round metal cage with two other bikers, for the entertainment of onlookers who presumably would be even more entertained if something went seriously wrong. He’s a guy whose life isn’t adding up to much, and Gosling, as effortlessly charismatic as he was in Drive, but to greater purpose, uses his eloquent stillness to project this man’s unformed yearning for something more.
Read the full review at Reason.com