Good Job

Andrew (Miles Teller) lives his life to please other people. His family, his teachers, strangers on the street – anyone who might take notice. It’s because of a smug exceptionalism. He’s better than all comers, and if not, he will be.

Fear is a motivator, for some, anyway. Andrew is one of them. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) viciously berates his students – Andrew too – who spend class looking down. They can’t bring themselves to make eye contact because if they do, the reprisal might scar them.

Whiplash is a movie about jazz. Or, just a drummer who plays jazz. It’s simple, but thematically arresting, less about the music than a programmed drive to succeed, and where necessary, conquer anyone who makes a mistake. Whiplash isn’t about fame, because Andrew wouldn’t choose jazz to leave a mark. It’s never about respect either; for a time, Whiplash seems that way as Andrew so aggressively tries to earn Fletcher’s praises. No, this… this is about total decimation of any enemy to become unequivocally great.

… Whiplash finds a tense mastery, depicting what it takes to reach greatness

Watching and listening to Simmons’ Fletcher, there’s a comparison to R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket. Both demean, taunt, and breakdown their students. In that context, Whiplash seems appropriately absurd – one film requires discipline under live fire, the other on a stage. Yet that’s where Whiplash finds a tense mastery, depicting what it takes to reach greatness, and simultaneously dismissing any distraction. Family and relationships fall away. There’s a cost. To people like Andrew and Fletcher, finding a balance between success and perfectionism isn’t possible.

Early on, Andrew asks a girl out to a pizza place. Not long after, he breaks up with her. In everything he does, Andrew wins. Getting the date was enough – he won. At the dinner table, he clashes with family lauding praise on their Division 3 football-playing son. “It’s just Division 3,” notes Andrew. That’s not winning. That’s not greatness.

Being notable, rare, or remarkable drives people. Sometimes it leads to war. Maybe sports. Or in Whiplash’s case, jazz. Whiplash asks what it’s all worth to lead a life with a determination to only seek accolades, to be above any criticism. Once someone achieved undisputed greatness at the cost of literally everything, there’s no winning left to do. “I’d rather die drunk, broke at 34 and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90 and nobody remembered who I was,” spouts Andrew. He’s not lying either. To him, it’s worth dying young to win. And there, Whiplash earns the Full Metal Jacket comparison.

Video

An upscale, Whiplash shows definite signs of such. In the opening shot, notable ringing appears around Teller. That ringing will keep appearing at various points throughout the presentation. Likely, it’s the source, shot digitally, not Sony’s encode or transfer. A grain filter persists without issue, and no other similar processing is apparent.

The jump in detail then isn’t significant. Resolution offers firm detail, cleanly resolved, and in key close-ups, superb in bringing out facial definition. Brilliant cinematography gets down into the minuscule texture on a cymbal, including collected sweat. Deep color can only do so much too as Whiplash sticks to a familiar orange/teal palette. It’s a lot of orange and teal, at times siding with a single monochrome hue.

Take all of that and Whiplash isn’t much in 4K, but the HDR difference does leave an impact. Highlights pop, which goes for stage lights, exterior light, nighttime wide shots, and any other similar source. Whiplash demands great black levels too, and shadow detail fares better here. Compare scenes of Simmons in the classroom, often low on light, Simmons dressed in all black. In HDR, he stands out clearly from the background whereas on the Blu-ray, he tends to fall into the dark.

Audio

At times, Sony’s new Atmos mix goes a little too far. Passing a drummer on the street, it’s odd to hear the sounds slip into the height channels. Say it’s ambiance, but it’s distracting and unnatural.

The rest though, well, this is a winner. Whiplash’s audio doesn’t fear using the overheads, sending music freely around the widened soundstage. It’s far greater than the 5.1 track previous (also on the disc in DTS-HD). Performances gain additional nuance, precise to an extreme, and totally unrestrained. Importantly, other than those few misgivings, accuracy remains high.

Strong low-end reaches firm depth too, drums and bass included. Going home to his apartment, a loud partly blares rap, filling the room with ambient LFE. A car crash makes a decent impact too, plus sending glass debris across the full width.

Extras

Director Damien Chazelle and J.K. Simmons pair for a commentary, the opening to a satisfying slate of extras (if the same as the previous Blu-ray). Timekeepers interviews drummers from all manner of musical styles, detailing their histories and passion. It runs 42-minutes, so this is far from a fluff piece. It’s close to being its own feature documentary with a touch more focus (and length).

The original short which spawned Whiplash is included, running 18-minutes. A commentary is offered here as well, along with a lone deleted scene. An interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, with Chazelle, Simmons, and Teller, is offered for the finale. It nears eight minutes.

Whiplash
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Whiplash explores exceptionalism and its cost in a tense, intelligent drama that’s about more than the world of jazz.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: