Director Rian Johnson breathes new life into the noir genre by bravely shifting it into unfamiliar territory, the high school. The transition is not always smooth or flawless, but that does not make it any less of a sight to behold. Brick comes injected with a complex and enthralling story, a cool and deliberately impassive attitude, a smart sense of originality and a multitude of spellbinding thrills.
At times it creates an eerie Lynchian feel with its slow pushes across the drab suburban landscape it takes place in. This is contrasted perfectly by high-paced, jump-cut action sequences, which help to step up the story and give Brick its own unique style. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the lead as well as one could hope for in such an experimental role as a teenage detective. Determined to investigate a missing ex-girlfriend after a puzzling phone call, he delves deep into a mysterious and menacing world of drugs dealers, thugs and crime lords. Subtle humour is placed throughout to remind the audience that the events are all taking place around a high school. This adds a lot to the charm of the film and manages to do so without compromising the overall dark veneer of the movie.
However, initially Brick can come across as being overly conceited and feels a little like a mishandled homage to noir films of the past. This conception should begin to dissolve as the mystery slowly unravels itself in front of the audience, bringing a sense of class along with it. All of the necessary elements for a detective story are covered here, including the sidekick who takes on the form of the knowledgeable loner ‘The Brain’ (Matt O’Leary). Despite only playing a minor role, ‘The Brain’ fits his archetype perfectly, and whips up some fierce, clever dialogue, akin to that found in detective thrillers from the 30s and 40s.
Brick proves to be a promising and confident directorial debut and an interesting mash of genres that come together well to form a fluid and absorbing story. It continually tightens its grip on the viewer as it pulls you into its own twisted moral playground, refusing to let go until the credits roll.
DIRECTED BY RIAN JOHNSON