What does it take to be the best?
It’s a question that all who strive to attain the highest levels of success ask themselves, and it’s a question that Whiplash – the superb sophomore feature from writer-director Damien Chazelle – poses in riveting, effective, and wonderfully ambiguous fashion.
Miles Teller stars as Andrew Neiman, an ambitious 19-year old drummer who’s determined to become one of the greats. That’s led him to the (fictional) Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York, where infamous instructor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) presides over an award-winning jazz band. All appears to be going well when Andrew catches Fletcher’s eye and is promoted to his top tier ensemble. It’s then that the instructor’s verbal, emotional, and physically abusive teaching methods are made brutally clear, and as Andrew pushes himself to dangerous lengths to meet Fletcher’s demanding standards, the question for both mentor and student is how far is too far in the pursuit of greatness.