The first three or four minutes of The Plane Beyond The Pines follows Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) into a fair and into a globe of death with two other riders. This is entirely done in one continuous shot. Located in small town New York, Luke is a local motorcycle hero who realizes that he has an infant son from a fling during a previous stop in the town of Schenectady. Having only hours to decide before heading out on a year-long tour as a stuntman, Luke quits and decides to stay in town to be in his son’s life. His son’s mother Romina (Eva Mendes) however, has already established her own life and a relationship with Kofi (Mahershala Ali) as she expresses no desire for Luke’s participation.
The Place Behind The Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance, takes a while to pick up. It starts out lacking a point, knowing full well there should be more to the story than a motorcycle stuntman wanting to be a father to his son. When Luke learns his employer used to be a bankrobber, they go that route so Luke can better provide for his son and again, there should be more to the story than a motorcycle stuntman-turned-bank robber wanting to be a father to his son. It sounds crazy but lacks the meat to make it any more than substandard. But this film is one you need to stick with because the story does build and once it does, it grows into its own.
The focus takes a turn and narrows in on Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a cop who becomes a hero but who is also faced with a professional decision that takes into account his integrity and character. This particular change in direction with the film comes as a slight surprise but it all ties together in the last portion of the film where the focus once again changes 15 years later. With these three points of attention and at two and a half hours, the film does feel lengthy and not because it isn’t engrossing but because there are points where the ending could have creep in and left for a satisfactory conclusion albeit one that leaves the ending open and left to personal interpretation.
Two things come to mind with this film. The first is the thought that throughout the film, any individual decision made would have resulted in a very different outcome for everyone involved. It’s obviously reality that it applies to us everyday anyway but it’s something particularly striking in this film where even the mere action of Luke dropping by the home of his former fling to find out he has a son sets the stage for the rest of the plot. It’s a recurring thought that continues to trickle down right through to the end.
The other is that honesty seems to play a lacking role to such an extent that, despite his actions, Luke may have been the most honest and genuine character in the film. Such a contrast between his personality and his actions and comparing them to everybody else becomes the film’s strongest point therefore repeatedly relying on the idea that it’s not so much the actions the determines the value of a person but the intention and desired outcome.