Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a jazz drummer at the Shaffer Conservatory. In Andrew's first year at school, he spends as much time as possible perfecting his drumming skills. Conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) notices Andrew and offers him the chance to be an alternate into Terence's band. Unbeknownst to Andrew, being able to meet Terence's lofty expectations for perfection will take a toll of him mentally, physically and emotionally.
While trying to perfect his drumming, Andrew and his girlfriend, Nicole's (Melissa Benoist) relationship begins to deteriorate. The constant physical and verbal abuse by Terence forces Andrew to break up with his girlfriend in an attempt to perfect his drumming. As the abuse continues to mount for Andrew and others in the band, Andrew has to decide whether continuing under the tutelage of Terence is best for his life.
For about the first hour, Whiplash is a really solid piece of film making. The narrative is tight and the performances are top notch. Watching J.K. Simmons unleash a beat that hasn't been seen before is a sight for sore eyes. If Terence Fletcher were selling Allstate Insurance, everyone would be a perfect driver. Miles Teller performs a solid, if unspectacular job, of trying to show a student that will go through hell in an attempt to become the best drummer he can be.
Now, I said for about the first hour the film was solid. Once we get to a point where Andrew's story shifts from the school, the film loses a bit of momentum, in my opinion. The dynamic we had between Andrew and Terence isn't there and the film suffers for it. The script then finds a way to shoehorn the two characters back together for a big third act that is more predictable than it should be. I guess, the finale is the only way that the film should have wrapped up, but it wasn't as satisfying as most of the movie that had come before it.
With a lesser second half, and some script cliches, (car crash?) I feel Whiplash was somewhat held back from greatness. I did appreciate the characters not having superfluous B-stories and detours from the main plot, which kept the pacing tight overall. J.K. Simmons steals the film in a very showy role that was worthy of an Oscar Nomination (maybe not the Oscar itself, though) while Miles Teller hangs on enough to make the audience understand the hardships he is experiencing.
Slightly uneven, but very watchable, Whiplash deserves most of the praise it has received.