Whiplash – Movie Review

Pavan Cheruku, Columnist

Whiplash is the most unsettling and anxiety-producing band movie I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, it is the only band film I’ve ever watched, but the point still stands. This masterfully crafted movie seized my attention from its first few beats and held it until the final crescendo. In certain moments of Whiplash, the suspense was so overwhelming that I had to pause and calm myself before continuing again. And, by the way, I mean this all as praise: it’s unprecedented that such a gripping narrative was developed from the story of a fictional jazz drummer.


This 2014 film was written and directed by Damien Chazelle. You may have heard of Chazelle from one of his other critically acclaimed movies, like La La Land, which is the polar opposite of Whiplash. I think a hilarious prank would be telling a friend that you are going to show them the lighthearted romantic musical La La Land, and instead showing them Whiplash. Not only would you be a terrible friend for lying, but you would also be responsible for their permanent aversion to joining a band.


Whiplash’s plot revolves around a dedicated jazz drummer named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller). Neiman is a freshman at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, where he hopes to further develop his drumming talents. His aspirations to become a world-class drummer lead him to join the Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band, conducted by Terrence Fletcher (J.K Simmons), one of the most ruthless, abusive human beings I’ve ever seen depicted on the big screen. Fletcher psychologically torments Neiman, leaving him mentally scarred as a result.


The characters in Whiplash are what make the movie so remarkable; it’s clear that the cast committed to expressing the abusive relationships fostered between Fletcher and the band members. Simmons’ acting is phenomenal. He manages to play the odious band conductor in such a realistic way that you’re transported into the shoes of Teller’s character, and you feel each insult thrown at Neiman as if it were thrown at you. 


The directing and cinematography is equally fantastic. I love Chazelle’s unique film-making style, which makes a consistent showing in all of his movies. For example, the camera panning back and forth quickly between band members helps stimulate anxiety within a viewer, and it’s almost like watching an action sequence. The fact that Chazelle crafted his band movie like an action film—with drum rolls as stand-ins for gunshots—is to me one of the most creative aspects of Whiplash.


My Main Takeaway From Whiplash:

Whiplash is a grave reminder that the ambitions of driven individuals are not worth the mental corrosion that can arise from an obsession with success or exploitation from mentors. Though its depiction of the brutal band experience may be a cinematic exaggeration, this core message about abusive power dynamics and the pursuit of perfection remains meaningful and revealing, especially in today’s fiercely competitive culture.


Grade: A+

If the film Whiplash were a candy you could buy at the movie theater, it would be sour patch kids. Sour patch kids contain flavors that are almost too strong for the palate, but nonetheless captivating, just as Whiplash thoroughly commands your attention throughout its runtime. And by the time you finish your extra-large bag of sour patch kids, you may be slightly overwhelmed, but you will be wowed by the incredible collection of flavors that filled your mouth. In the same way, Whiplash doesn’t have a happy ending. Instead, it features what is, in my eyes, the perfect ending.