There is something to be said about a film that taps into a style blocked into a certain era of film history. It is a difficult undertaking, one that cannot be simply executed by an innate desire to evoke a feeling that is encapsulated by outside influences of the time. Rian Johnson’s Brick is one of the few examples that not only captures a late film style but also combines it with the flare of current independent filmmaking.
Tapping into the Film Noir genre, Brick is set in a modern day high school where loner Brendan Fry (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) delves into the underworld of a teenage crime ring that has spiraled out of control after the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. Complete with a Femme Fatale, the film holds to practically every Noir characteristic leaving aside only the at-times distracting voice-over narration.
When this film was initially released in 2005, it was heralded as a breakthrough in independent film. I recall walking into the film building on my college campus and every professor was just abuzz about this film that they had seen. It was as if they all had gathered together and traipsed down to the small indie theatre down the hill in a group party to witness the feature debut from Johnson. After their joint detour (during office hours no doubt), posters for the film decorated our “must-see” hall which normally was filled with the classics like Kieslowski’s Bleu, Pakula’s Klute and Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Mind you, I still don’t know why they hung Vertigo on the walls considering every single professor loves to talk about how Kim Novak really shouldn’t have gotten the part and how Vera Miles would have done the film a considerable amount better justice.
It’s been four years since this film debuted but still it is one of the more ‘breath of fresh air’ films I have seen in a while. The story line is simple while also seeming complicated as the plot unravels. What is interesting about this film is how it is expertly written. The dialogue is advanced and perhaps a bit out of place for a group of teenagers deeply immersed in a drug ring but there are moments when the audience is perfectly reminded that these are just a gaggle of high-schoolers based on actions, statements, quiet moments and more.
The visual style is superb but the acting is what amazes. It is hard to find a good set of actors these days as we are being force-fed the name-recognition only credits. Brick boasts a cast of talented young actors, Levitt leading the pack of course but filled out with Lukas Haas, a child prodigy all grown up, Emilie De Ravin, Matt O’Leary, and Nora Zehetner.
So basically, if you couldn’t get enough of good independent filmmaking with Joseph Gordon-Levitt after (500) Days of Summer…check this film out as soon as you can type it into Netflix. Check out the trailer below.
“Argh! I’ve Already Seen This Movie!”
If you’ve already beaten me to the punch on this great film, check out: Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang; The Lookout; The Brothers Bloom; The Big Sleep.