Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I Think Of: Brick (2005)

Come one, come all as the music plays, it's time for an homage, this time in the form of classic detective novels and movies of a by-gone-era, this week I bring you the movie Brick. This 2005 neo-noir film is both written and the directorial debut of American filmmaker, Rian Johnson. Set right out of the pages of a hard-boiled detective novel, but with the setting in modern suburbia, Brick stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Brenden Frye, a high school student who one days finds his ex-girlfriend Emily (Lost's Emilie De Ravin), lying dead in a storm drain. He takes it upon himself to solver her murder which brings him down down the drain to the dark highschool underbelly of drug kingpins, femme fatales and classic double and triple crossing. Can Brenden solve Emily's murder and will he be happy with the truths he finds along the way?

As anyone who listens to our podcast knows, I love me some Brick, I mean really love. It has everything a fan of 40's and 50's cinema and film-noir could ever want, it's influences just bleed off the celluloid film stock. Here are some of my thoughts concerning the film:

  • The plot, the characters, the dialogue all draw heavy inspiration from the greatest of detective novels and movies, especially those written by Dashiell Hammett. The characters in Brick feel like they’ve stepped right off the set of The Maltese Falcon, or The Thin Man series, or the pages of Red Harvest. And they’re high school students. Just brilliant. It's all wonderfully complex, a maze of dialogue and transparencies, a film that just gets better with each repeat viewing.
  • This is the first film where I stood up and took notice of Joseph Gordon Levitt and his acting prowess. He plays the beaten down detective role so well, the guy who lives in gray, who only sees the finish line and doesn't care how he gets there. He embodies the classic single determination of Sam Spade, the detective with a mouth that cashes more checks than it can afford!! Seriously beautiful stuff and JGL has never looked back, getting better with each film he's in.
  • The way the film is shot, the way the film looks is just sublime goodness. The way the colors look washed out, as if black and white are trying to push back the rainbow. It's dark hues, it's wonderful use of undefined blue, Brick is the perfect example on how to use color in a film-noir, a lot like in 1994's The Last Seduction which was also punishingly beautiful to watch.
  • I will say that the dialogue can be a bit off putting for those unfamiliar with crime films and how the characters speak- the slang almost appearing as if in a foreign language. However, the script does try to explain the most important of the slang words, while the others the viewer can fill in for themselves. However, if you're watching this on dvd, I recommend turning on the subtitles if you have a hard time following what the character's say. You'll thank me for that when it's over.
  • I love the fact that while everyone is tough and murder is the game, all the characters are still high school students who live at home. And while on the street everything breathes noir, at home all the characters lead a normal high school student/family life. It all just brings a wonderful added layering to the film.
  • As I mentioned before, this is director Rian Johnson's first film and what a film it is. His second film, The Brothers Bloom is just as good while many even find it better. Johnson just has an amazing ear for characters and since he writes all the scripts he directs he has full control, his vision is at the forefront of all his films and the world should be thankful for that. He gets what films are about and his films make every viewer understand that while Johnson is a director, he is also a lover of films. He has seen as much as you have, maybe even more, and he'd like to show you his spin, his take on film genre's, here with film noir's and with Bloom, silent films.
The females here are all fatales, the muscle all stupid, the drugs all cooked, and the innocents are long gone. This is a world where no character is right, no character is pure, a world of lost souls, fast talkers, and cuts and bruises. A classic world, my favorite world, it's all crime and noir here, so just sit back, enjoy your stay and try to jump when the shadows move.

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