If jazz drums are Birdman’s major flaw—it’s a short list, and they 100 percent are—the opposite applies to Whiplash, a thrilling drama about a jazz drum student (Miles Teller) under the thumb of a masochistic instructor (JK Simmons). Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who is all of 29, Whiplash is essentially a two-hander about guys—it’s very dudely— reaching for greatness. Teller’s Andrew wants to be as good as Charlie Parker, and Simmons’ Fletcher wants to be the guy who gets him there, with full credit. Teller, usually breezy comic relief, is all quiet intensity until he’s behind the kit—his drumming is astonishing—while Simmons goes balls-out in the Evil Coach part, a terrifying joy. Whiplash is fairly ugly-looking: brown rehearsal rooms, yellow movie theatre lobbies and night shots of New York that scream “We didn’t have permits!,” but periodically there is a moment of beauty, as when Andrew opens his hand in a pitcher of ice water and blood pours out. This is not a music movie—the numbers are dense and joyless—it’s a sports movie, and a very assured one for a guy clearly reaching for the stars himself.