Movie trailers are designed to make a film look better than it is, but the trailer for The Place Beyond the Pines only touches the surface of what this fantastic (and long) movie is actually about.
The trailer spruiks a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to a life of crime to provide for his newfound family. Based on this, I expected to see a cops-and-robber-style movie. What writer-director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) has created, however, is a deeper story that examines the generational consequences of its characters’ choices.
Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a heavily tattooed stunt rider who lives a gypsy life performing in roaming carnivals. While performing in a remote town, he runs into an old flame (played by Eva Mendes) and finds out that he has a baby son. Luke wants to do the right thing, so he quits the carnival and gets a job to provide for his child. But it’s not enough. He’s compelled to rob a few banks, which works a breeze due to his superb motorbike-riding getaway skills.
But Luke’s luck comes to an end during an ill-fated robbery when he meets an ambitious rookie cop, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Cross wants to move up the ranks in the police force, but wrestles with both corruption and his conscience regarding how he’s dealt with his sins of the past.
The film is split into three vignettes, with the drama unfolding over 15 years. Each third focuses on a different character and how their choices have affected the next. This movie is about the legacy that you leave for the next generation, and I found it much more haunting than I expected.
Running at 140 minutes, The Place Beyond the Pines is long, but I found it poignant and thoughtful. It doesn’t hurt that both Gosling and Cooper put in powerful performances and are extremely easy on the eye.