An ambitious drummer goes to a prestigious conservatory where he meets an even more ambitious teacher. Which one of them turns out to be the bigger musical genious, have the bigger ego, or be the more arrogantly victorious hero in the end…?
The script is very tight and narrowly focused – probably fair to call it myopic – on these two leads. All other characters are just there in support of strengthening the focus on the battle between these two characters.
And battle they do, from the very first opening scene all the way through to its grand crescendo.
The acting of the two leads is excellent. I keep saying two leads – officially the lead actor is Miles Teller as the young drummer, and JK Simmons is in a supporting role as the instructor. JK Simmons owns the screen in any scene he is in, and carries the movie. Not to say Miles Teller isn’t good – he is very strong and clearly is maturing further as an actor if you compare this with his already solid performance in The Spectacular Now.
This movie is not an ode to jazz by the way – it doesn’t even mention anything about feeling for, in or from the music, it solely focuses on technical skills (or in the instructor’s opinion, the lack thereof) in the students, and Musical Greatness can therefore seemingly only be achieved through technical perfection.
But don’t watch this movie (just) for the music (even though you’ll enjoy it!), watch it for the intense, unrelenting and baneful battle between mentor and student…