Derek Cianfrance’s ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ is essentially made up of three extended vignettes. The first sees Ryan Gosling playing a taciturn anti-hero drawn into a life of crime (. . . again). The second sees Bradley Cooper playing an upstanding New York cop who sets off on a one-man mission to expose the vice-ridden corruption in the force. The third, and final, section sees Dane DeHaan as a young delinquent trying to come to terms with his past.
Each segment is led superbly and it would have been hard to pick a better triptych of actors. All three more than hold their own and they each bring something new to the table, whilst maintaining a through-line of classical performance. Cianfrance also draws equally impressive turns from his diverse cast of secondary actors. He provides them all with the same naturalistic dialogue he wrote so well for his previous film, ‘Blue Valentine’, and they deliver it exquisitely.
The three parts are blended well and they feel cohesive, whilst all having a distinct feel to them. Though the quality remains immensely high throughout, the final third feels the least polished. It often wanders off track and it lacks the brooding nature of the Gosling scenes and the moral conundrums of Cooper’s segment. That being said, it was always going to be the most difficult to pull-off. DeHaan’s Jason is troubled (to say the least) and, for that reason alone, the consistency was destined to fluctuate.
With this and ‘Blue Valentine’, Derek Cianfrance is shaping up to be one of the most promising young directors working today. I can’t wait to see what he tackles next.