A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Before he became the esteemed acting powerhouse we know and love today, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was imply known as “that guy from 10 Things I hate About You”. The truth of the matter is he should have proceeded to be known as “that guy who single handedly made Brick so impressive”.
“Brick” was brought to my attention online, being regarded as an overlooked gem from the mid-2000’s. Now that Netflix is up and running in Australia (finally) and “Brick” is available, there really was no excuse.
“Brick” is a quintessential modern noir film at its core, and it’s an example of an unabashedly self-aware picture too.
Directed by Rian Johnson (“Looper”), “Brick” is a detective thriller of emotional fortitude set in a high school. A loner protagonist, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) puts on a brave face and sets out to uncover the turn about his missing ex-girlfriend, and along the way, encounters a diverse range of characters and situations, more often than not result in him getting punched in the face.
“Brick” offers several redeeming and commendable qualities. The cast performs exceptionally well, the shot composition is superb and the dynamic range of the film is highly investible.
There is but one issue with the film, the plot is incredibly complicated and hard to follow upon first viewing. It’s not really a valid criticism of a film if it doesn’t spoon-feed its audience every minor piece of exposition; in fact, it’s refreshing when a film has some level of respect for its viewers. The only thing I can comment on is that the fact that “Brick” is difficult to follow completely means it definitely won’t be for everyone.
“Brick” is a visual enthusiast’s dream when it comes to stepping away from the norm to break convention in a somewhat French New Wave style. Not only is are the shots well set, well coloured and large in range, the editing techniques are incredibly in-your-face and on the nose.
Jump cuts dominate the third act of the film, and jagged sequences offer a jarring perspective on events, but that’s precisely the point of “Brick”; it becomes a talking point.
As previously mentioned, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s efforts as Brendan are stellar to watch unfold. Occupying nearly every single scene of the film, the role requires a lot from an actor and becomes a representation of the overall film by deafult.
Like the classic noirs that defined the genre, the protagonist’s journey is the central focal point to uncovering the mystery. We, the audience travel along with them, encountering characters and uncovering clues at the same speed as them.
Along the journey, the audience get to know and understand the protagonist a lot more as they grow in front of our very eyes, and more often than not, the protagonists learns something about themselves as well.
There is a somewhat formulaic tone to any noir film, and that is exhibited in “Brick”, but its not as obvious this time around. The way in which the writers are able to dissect and explore characters is very impressive.
Lukas Haas plays ‘The Pin’, a character (not pictured above) that has been extracted straight out of a classic 50’s noir. Dressed like a hybrid between Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, The Pin offers a fantastic insight into the world in which “Brick” is set and the characters that occupy it, simply from his attire alone.
He’s an interesting figure within the narrative, offering a lot of popular character traits found in the classics, but there’s a spin on the norm that makes him rather fascinating. Accompanied with sidekick Tugger (Noah Fleiss), the two central threats to Brendan offer the perfect combination of brain and brawn.
When discussing “Brick”, a lot has been said about the film’s self-awareness when it comes to the tone and themes that match the age of the cast. One would assume a detective drama/mystery set in a high school would automatically shoot itself in the foot straight off the bat, but because “Brick” understands this potential fault, the writers play around with it incredibly well.
The tense and gripping conversational scene at a dining table that gets interrupted by a mother serving the characters some orange juice is a prime example of this.
There is also the typical horror film cliché of “the parents rarely being present when all this horror is going on in the community”. This classic trope can be found within “Brick”, but again, it’s been written in such a way that you soon forget about it and it actually works in the film’s favour after a while.
Lastly, it’s very difficult to not liken “Brick” to the atmospheric eeriness of “Twin Peaks”. Complete with a foreign landscape within a familiar setting, oddball characters in normal situations (to an extent) and the overriding sense of discomfort that accompanies the viewing experience; “Brick” is something that could definitely appeal to fans of the iconic series.
It’s not surreal like David Lynch’s mystery series, but there are a lot of similar aspects to found within characters, themes and tone.
It’s not easy to follow, it could drag for the better part of 10 minutes and some things just fly over your head, but there’s a lot to admire about “Brick”. You’ll definitely need to watch it twice to fully appreciate it, but it’s understandable if you feel as though you shouldn’t need to in the first place.
Noir fans will get something out of this, whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt fans will grow increasingly fond of the superstar he has transformed into.
“Brick” is certainly an overlooked gem that is worth a watch, but only if you’re in the correct frame of mind and enjoy this particular style of film.
Remember, be alert!