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Movie Review: Brick

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It has been said that a great film can be categorized by containing five great scenes and zero bad ones. Brick fits this description. While its central plot is commonplace, the manner in which it’s directed and spoken in is unlike anything you’ve seen or heard in recent years.

Under the unflinching direction of newcomer Rian Johnson, Brick capitalizes on being a throwback to ‘40’s film noir and a vivid, who-done-it, hard-boiled thriller. Brick is a present-day take on the enigmatic style of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep that – above all – champions mood, mystery, and dialogue.

Set in the suburbs of San Clemente, California, Brick depicts the violent and drug-addicted underbelly of high-school. Our hero, Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is determined to solve the puzzle of who killed his ex-girlfriend, Emily Kostach (Emilie de Ravin). To do so, he teams up with his sharp friend, Brain (Matt O’Leary).

In their way stand the rich and convincing Laura (Nora Zehetner), the muscular and hot-headed Tug (Noah Fleiss), the dramatic and seductive Kara (Meagan Good), and the spiky-haired and substance-abusing Dode (Noah Segan). Additionally, there is the portentous Pin (Lukas Haas), who serves as the puppet master to his team of thugs and their underground happenings.

In terms of dialogue, Brick’s script oozes with a Bogart-esque film noir style. For example, the crux of the plot is centered on the quote, “Look, I did what she said with the brick. I didn't know it was bad, but The Pin's on it now for poor Frisco, and they're playing it all on me.” Moreover, instead of simply saying, “I’m going home sick,” the main character exclaims, “I’ve got knives in my eyes.” As well, in place of stating, “Stay on the lookout, and let me know if you find her,” the line reads, “Keep your specs on; find me if she shows.”

The first of the five great scenes is a flawless chase scene that expertly accentuates the sounds of shoes hitting the pavement — and for good reason. Next, when Brendan hurls the alarm clock at the mirror, the camera is wisely diverted away from the action only to observe the projectile coming to a halt and a few shards hitting the countertop. In addition, there is a beautiful sunset conversation that mentions Tolkien, an awkward scene with The Pin’s mother serving Corn Flakes and apple juice, and a sublime transition from a fully-lit cigarette to one that is burnt out.

Likewise, it appears as if Johnson has taken a master class in maxing out the effectiveness of on-screen blows. Every on-camera punch is implemented with the utmost perfection. In particular, one fight sequence receives extra credit by having the perpetrator walk, not run, before striking.

Above all, Rian Johnson does a superior job in terms of execution; his film transports you to a confusing new world packed with puzzling discourse and unique characters. His bright yet somehow overcast atmosphere, coupled with the incessant degradation of his protagonist, keeps you enticed and entranced. Lastly, his aesthetics and camera movements are admirable.

In brief, Brick can easily be characterized as a distinctive film from the likes of a fresh mind and a golden pen. Just remember, “Keep your specs on,” for what Johnson attempts next, and “find me if he shows.”

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About Brandon Valentine