Brick review by Matt Fuerst
Enough of that reminiscing baloney. You show me a movie loaded with child actors, and I'll show you a movie that I despise. If you didn't pick up on the subtle nature of that last sentence, I was trying to convey the fact that anytime children are involved in a movies storyline, I find it takes the overall tone of the movie down a serious notch. Basically, I blame Haley Joel Osmet for every horrible movie made in the last 10 years. Reading the synopsis of Brick, I had a serious sinking sensation in my stomach. The "elevator pitch" for Brick is "film noir set in a high school". If you're like me, you're hitting the big red stopper in front of you right now saying "No Whammies! Stop!". But, it had such a glowing review on a fellow poorly designed movie review web site that I decided to give it a chance.
The "elevator pitch" is fairly right on. Brendan is a high school loner. During school, a note drifts out of his locker onto the ground. Inside, a note from his troubled love, Emily. "Meet me at so and so", we know how the story goes. Brendan shows up at an abandoned phone booth in the middle of no where, and gets a call from a frantic Emily. Something is wrong, terribly wrong, but Emily is making very little sense. Words, sentences jumble together like a Matt Fuerst movie review, and soon Emily devolves into a hysterical fit as she is convinced someone is approaching her. The phone goes dead.
Brendan begins "shaking the tree" to see what is happening with Emily and who exactly is involved. Brendan speaks in brief, staccato sentences. Firing his carefully selected words off quickly, yet carefully. The approach to dialogue is very nu-noir. Mixing modern slang, and old-60's-Dragnet-style words, Brenden climbs the entire structure of the high school system. The seedy underbelly of druggies, drug dealers, all the way to the Vice Principal. Using only his wits and his friend The Brain, Brendan has to find Emily before she is hurt, or worse.
I've touched on the dialogue, but writer/director Rian Johnson does so much more right in his feature debut. Johnson knows how to pace a scene, what camera angles correctly convey the very dark, heavy nature of the story that he's telling, in spite of the relatively childish setting of a high school. He's so successful I wasn't once annoyed by the very nature of being set around a high school (which is very "After School Special"-esque place to set a movie). It brings up an interesting question. Johnson has such an interesting story here, so well executed and dialogued, it could have worked as well in the seedy underbelly of a Prohibition Era Chicago, or a vicious knitting club in the heartland of America. Why pick a high school? I'd imagine the idea of dichotomy struck Johnson. These kids, acting all grown up with their posturing, making very adult decisions with very adult ramifications, struck Johnson as a very interesting idea to toy with. But I could be off the mark there.
True to film noir, Brendan finds out the answers he's looking for, and true to the genre they aren't all happy ones. But a noir protagonist is driven not for the happy ending, but by their sense of what's just. Watching Brick is a very just experience, indeed.
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