Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
A detective story.
A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.
It's really quite amazing what Rian Johnson can do with an incredibly limited budget. Brick is nothing if not creative—it may utilize genre conventions, but it does so in a unique way. As a lover of inventive cinematography the biggest standout for me was the framing: everything is shot from an extremely low angle, and many characters are defined as much by their shoes as anything else (and speaking of signature imagery, there's a pervasive fear of garbage bags running through the film that definitely gave me chills once or twice). The editing is also phenomenal, constantly pushing the envelope and using every trick in the book to keep you on your toes. The dialogue's snappy imitation-noir…
If there are two types of movies that have been done to death, it's noir pastiche and high school movies. But, in one of the great bits of movie alchemy, Rian Johnson takes these two subgenres and smashes them up with the reckless abandon of someone who doesn't seem to care if anyone likes it or not, even though we all know that's impossible.
Johnson and the cast are all smart enough to know that a conceit like this will work best if it's played completely straight, and with the exception of one (arguably 2) scene(s), it is. And amusement at the idea of high school students living out a Dashiell Hammett nightmare eventually gives way to genuine and shattering…
It's not often we get to see a debut film that is made with such verve, one that truly stands out daring to be so unique. As a whole it is very much a film that delivers style over any meaningful content but what style it turns out to be. This fast talking, sharply edited modern noir appears to constantly challenge itself scene after scene, seeing if it can continue to raise expectations.
The details of the plot are almost impenetrable, the basic premise being that a spectacle wearing loner called Brendan (a rather downsized and far more agreeable Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is attempting to trace an ex-girlfriend who has asked for his help. Beyond that it's a case of suburban…
"Whatever befalls you I'll deal with. Just tell me about the trouble with the brick, the pin."
Brick is writer and director, Rian Johnson's, feature debut which he delivered with great craftsmanship and an original and unique vision. Despite having seen Looper first, I think Brick is still Johnson's best film and most impressive one. It has a very original and smart concept which I haven't seen played out so well an any other film. Brick has all the classic noir conventions of films from the 30's like The Maltese Falcon, but it is set in a very different and drastic manner. So in a way Brick has a similar mood and atmosphere of classic film noir, but by setting…
So now we've shaken the tree. Let's wait and see what falls on our heads.
Brick is a film that shouldn't work.
It actually took me a few tries to get fully submerged into Rian Johnson's bleak neo noir high school drama thriller. Yes, all those words belong in the same sentence.
I've tried several times to watch Brick but every one of those times I've been distracted, disengaged, or the film just failed to pull me in. I finally powered through the film last night and I feel incredibly silly for not being able to finish it. Brick is one of those films whose clawed grip only sinks deeper into your flesh and fills your veins with colder and…
A modern day film noir, but at high school with teenagers. And surprisingly, it works.
Do you remember what high school was like? That was the whole universe. There was nothing beyond it. Nothing. The way the film utilizes these desolate sports fields and empty car parks, as if to suggest there is no life and no world beyond the California hills that frame nearly every setting...clever stuff. There is also the complete lack of the adult beyond the most simple archetype: the mother and the principle, and the fact that, while most of the characters are students seen in or around the school, we never see anyone doing anything even remotely close to school work. To the characters, this is the real world, as the real world is to a detective in the true old film noirs.
A tremendous amount of thought went into this story, and that hard work definitely raises this above a simple gimmick.
I got into it with high expectations, since I'd seen Looper (2012) by Mr. Johnson, and I'd say this film exceeded my expectations. For a movie made with about half a million dollars, of this scale, and with such assurance and firm grip from a director making his debut feature film, is a remarkable achievement, one which I myself am inspired to probably replicate sometime in the future. Mr. Johnson's debut film is one that sticks to genre conventions, and yet manages to deliver something unique and fresh, while getting good performances out of its cast.
The story literally revolves around these high school kids and how three guys are in love with the same girl, but then there's this neo-noir aspect added to it and suddenly it's become this dark and absurd drama and it's so good. Rian Johnson's direction and writing is so tight here as well. I love what he does with the camera and the editing to heighten certain scenes and to really make you feel the tension of the moment he's showing us on screen. And then the way he writes some of these characters dialogue to almost feel like rap at times. Like I said, it's so tight and quick and adds so much to the storytelling.
I still cannot believe Disney approved this guy to direct VIII and they're letting him do whatever he wants.
Just fuck us all up Rian.
A surprisingly complex noir set in the high stakes world of high school. Rian Johnson is gonna bring Star Wars back to being great.
Enjoyment Extracted: 8/10
Technical Execution: 9/10
Does Brick try too hard to pay homage to the noir genre? I'd say yes. But it still works in its own, quirky way.
Likes: The characters are so fun - noir characters juxtaposed within the high school scene? Yes please! I feel like those who don't like this film will say that it went wrong with the silliness/unlikelihood of this ever happening in high school, but I think that's part of its charm. Isn't noir cheeky, over-the-top and somewhat hokey? Brick leans really hard into these elements, and I think that's how it develops a working formula. The writing, directing and acting is completely self aware, and cleverly embraces these components to make for a seriously fun crime story/drama…
I will watch literally anything this dude puts his name on.
My favorite movie podcast "Filmspotting" does an annual award called The Golden Brick, named after the Rian Johnson film. It highlights unique and under-the-radar films they help champion. (Past winners include Tangerine, Dogtooth, Blue Ruin) Brick uses known devices to create a wholly original film. Noir and high school films are some of the most overplayed genres, but blending them together seemed to make perfect sense and make everything feel new.
Brick is a marvel. Here's some things I learned from reading the Wikipedia page. Johnson wrote the first draft in 1997, shopping it for 7 years before realizing it wouldn't get made. He figured the minimum budget and got the contributions himself to make the movie. Shot in 20 days at his high school. Look at this, you're learning! Alright that's enough wiki facts. This movie shouldn't exist. It does. Glad it does. It's a golden brick
Combined the average ratings (Critic's & Users) from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd, and then weighted and tweaked the results…
[after his parents have left, thinking he is ill] "They bought it. Incredible! One of the worst performances of my…