The illusion of power as obtained through force. Whiplash represents a valiant attempt at striving for depth and resonance with a brash blend of ferocity and delicacy, but its sights are set on duplicating an emotional response that we've felt before, hitting beats along the line that we've also felt before. Damien Chazelle and actors Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons certainly convince us that they're trying their very hardest, though, and that's worth a hell of a lot, even if the film delineates and quest for greatness that's somewhat lacking in any significance beyond the desires of its protagonist. Whiplash is a compelling film much of the time, a combination of desperation and infuriation cranking the heart rate ever higher, as Chazelle fills the screen with precisely-composed imagery. His exactitude as a filmmaker is ideal here - so his appreciation of the fact that close-ups represent immediacy and can give the pacing real propulsion, and that wide shots have a more relaxing effect, is rudimentary, it's extremely effective nonetheless. His appreciation of the dynamics of a music rehearsal group is, no doubt, reliable, though he treads into cliche whenever he allows the tempo to sag. Whiplash is at its most brutish when it throbs with anger and determination and fear, but its primal strength is palpable, and the film produces genuine thrills as a result. Chazelle uses a familiar structure to found these emotional assaults, rendering them rather less familiar by distorting their usual rhythm, not relenting on their hard-hitting high notes; this structure permits much of Whiplash to feel redundant when not infused with utmost energy. Chazelle's resolution is less dramatically fulfilling than it intends to be: it too suggests an illusion of power, over oneself and one's adversaries, whatever form they take, and it buys into this suggestion. Maybe this fantasy finale is what Chazelle feels the audience needs after 90 minutes of honesty, but it felt pat and unrealistic to me.