Blu-ray Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film you can’t really prepare yourself for beforehand, as it’s not a predictable cookie-cutter formula, nor is it a simple point A to point B story that can be described easily. It’s a movie best experienced in the moment, just as we live life, as that’s exactly what the characters in the film are doing. Throughout, they make choices, and then they must deal with the repercussions of those choices that can span generations.

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are two of Hollywood’s hottest stars at the moment, and The Place Beyond the Pines not only has both in starring roles, but also sees them deliver two of their best performances to date. Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stuntman that travels all over with state fairs. Luke hasn’t had an easy life, and while his past is only hinted at, it’s clear he’s likely had quite a few brushes with the law and isn’t the type of guy you want to take home to meet mom and dad.

When the fair he works for returns to the small village of Altamont, New York a year after its last visit, Luke is visited by Romina (Eva Mendes), an old fling of his, and finds out he has a one-year-old son named Jason. Fearing that his son will turn out like he did with no father around, Luke quits his job in order to remain in Altamont and provide for Romina and Jason, while also being a part of their lives. With no real skills outside of motorcycle stunts, Luke turns to robbing banks in order to help make ends meet. Police officer Avery Cross (Cooper) crosses paths with Luke during this period in his life, and the meeting will alter both their lives forever.

Co-writer/director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) really knows how to bring characters to life on the screen (of course, a superb ensemble cast doesn’t hurt anything either). The way characters interact with one another, react to situations and just deal with life in general feels so natural and real that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a movie at times; instead feeling like voyeur peering in as these lives unfold.

The film does take a turn sometime during the second act, and time jumps forward and we’re introduced to a teenage Jason (Dane DeHaan), as well as a teenage AJ Cross (Emory Cohen), who is Avery’s son. Cianfrance handles this extremely well, so the change isn’t jarring – especially since characters from earlier in the film remain in the story. Still, the focus changes from Luke and Avery to that of their children, and how choices their parents made are now affecting them.

While the work done by DeHaan and Cohen is top-notch, their story isn’t as riveting as that of their fathers, and because of this the film does lose a bit of momentum. While Luke and Avery’s lives intersected naturally, Jason and AJ feel somewhat forced together at first in order to keep the story moving. Still, as things slowly unfold over the course of the final act there’s a sense of suspense and uncertainty that Cianfrance is able to muster thanks to the strength of the rest of the film; however, whether or not the final 30 minutes delivers will depend heavily on the individual viewer.

Even with the minor speed bump in the final act, The Place Beyond the Pines is a film that shouldn’t be missed. Not only do Gosling and Cooper deliver stellar performances, but Mendes really elevates the part of Romina, adding layers to a character that could easily have been cliché-ridden and forgettable if played by a lesser actress. Cianfrance has done it once again, proving to be a director who knows how to craft a story filled with characters that will remain with viewers long after everything fades to black.

The Place Beyond the Pines looks fantastic on Blu-ray, as cinematographer Sean Bobbitt beautifully lights the film and none of that is lost in this wonderful transfer. The audio also comes through quite nicely, with all mixes coming through and complimenting one another beautifully.

The film is actually really light on extras, as it would’ve been nice to see some of the training work that Cooper and Gosling went through for their roles – especially Gosling training on the bike.

What we do have are the following:

Deleted and Extended Scenes – There are four scenes here, all of which were rightfully cut out entirely, or shortened for pacing. They all come in at just under 10 minutes in length, and are only worth checking out if you really want to get every last offering that this Blu-ray offers you.

Going to The Place Beyond the Pines This featurette comes in at an incredibly short four and a half minutes; the first two minutes of which feel like promotional material with the film with brief snippets of interviews intertwined with clips from the film. The final two minutes sees Cianfrance talking more, as well as Gosling and Cooper talking about why they signed on for the movie.

Feature Commentary with Co-writer/Director Derek Cianfrance –
This is the bread and butter of the special features, as Cianfrance is a great storyteller even when speaking on commentaries. He’ll give insight about how things went during the shoot, and also where ideas came from and how some of the story came to be. Definitely worth checking out for fans of the film.

The Place Beyond the Pines is the type of film that actors love to sink their teeth into, as it’s filled with some great tragic characters that have a story to tell. It’s a gripping tale about the choices made by fathers and how they come back to haunt them for generations to come.

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment Presents The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by: Derek Cianfrance. Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan, Ray Liotta. Running time: 140 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: August 6, 2013. Available at

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