Most movies have a certain degree of fat that can be cut away, scenes that slow down the process and cause wandering attention spans.
Not so with "Whiplash," a marvel of intense, economic storytelling starring Miles Teller as an aspiring drummer and J.K. Simmons as his psychotic instructor at a prestigious Manhattan music school.
Writer-director Damien Chazelle simply refuses to waste a minute in this portrait of a virtuoso musician being birthed in a trial by fire.
The fire comes from Simmons' Fletcher, who rants, pontificates, curses and hurls objects to get his way. It's a questionable method for inspiring your charges, of course, but it seems to work on Teller's Andrew.
The movie has been described as "Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard," and there's a measure of truth there, but the essence of the picture defies that simple description.
In its spare scenes of Andrew literally drumming his hands raw, its in-depth portrait of musical pieces developing over hours of practice and its battle of wills between Andrew and Fletcher, "Whiplash" smartly shows the sacrifices required to achieve greatness.