To what lengths must we go to bring out innate talent in the quest to be the best? What sacrifices must be made?

A talented but naive 19-year-old jazz drumming student (an impressive Miles Teller) at a prestigious NYC music academy is challenged to rise to his full potential by a brutal, Machiavellian, perfectionist teacher/bandleader (an Oscar-winning J.K. Simmons). While the inspirational-teacher setup has been fairly beaten to death, the execution here is unique. You will not know where it’s going, and it will shatter your expectations. It turns the sentimental genre on its head and plays more like a sports movie, or even a psychothriller.

Visceral, kinetic, and compelling, it was nicknamed “Full Metal Julliard” at Sundance. Don’t be expecting Dead Poets Society or Mr. Holland’s Opus. Writer/director Damien Chazelle (someone to watch) never misses a beat or hits a sour note in this tightly paced, propulsive film. One of the best movies of the year, the title refers to a difficult big-band number that hinges on the drummer. It also describes what you might feel after surviving the intense and cathartic final scene. Big screen, please. For the sound. Japanese title: Session. (106 min)