Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Noah Segan
Misunderstandings can lead to deadly consequences depending on the parties involved. Add in the hormones of teenagers and you get a neo-noir mixing the self-seriousness of adolescence and legitimate stakes. With all of it, we receive Brick, which serves as a stunning feature directorial debut and an intriguing mystery to follow.
Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives a puzzling call from an ex-girlfriend of his, which confuses him. The next day, it’s revealed she is missing, which then prompts him to dig around and find out exactly what had her concerned. After the revelation of her death, the stakes of the situation only get more grave, as he discovers what is happening.
Noir films create such intrigue because no one can really be trusted. The protagonist gets introduced, who we follow, but anyone else can be a threat, even if they seem to be an ally throughout the feature. Most noir features take place with adults, but with this film, it all takes place with high school-aged students, which creates the illusion of some sort of innocence. However, Brick goes to show just how dangerous this world can be for these younger students, as they try to navigate a world of drugs and other illicit behavior.
Serving as the trustworthy protagonist is Brendan, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who does not necessarily fit in with the cool kids but he can hold his own. He has his own friends, but in order to fully investigate what happened to his ex-girlfriend, he needs to penetrate different circles. In that journey, he meets several mysterious people and others who become incredibly threatening, which all seems fine until you remember these are a bunch of high schoolers. In a way, it makes it slightly comedic, because as adolescents, we find a way to overdramatize certain things, and seeing someone like Brendan attempting to solve a murder instead of reporting it to the police seems incredibly odd. The noir set up pays off in spades with the untrustworthy atmosphere set up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays this character very well in one of his better younger performances. He guides us through this incredibly odd situation and with classmates, who live interesting lives after school.
I was certainly not surprised to see Rian Johnson put together such a tight and tense film as his feature directorial debut. He knows how to craft interesting characters and place them on a chessboard for us all to enjoy. The man created the best Star Wars film and has enjoyed creating large mysteries for his characters to follow. He has received the proper notoriety with Knives Out, but his incredible talent shines with Brick and points towards what he could create with larger budgets at his disposal. As a writer, he creates such interesting characters, but as a director, he sets the tone for the hypnotic experience this film seeks to take us on. So many different moments fill the space with an incredible amount of tension, which has us fearing for the life of our protagonist. Death among the teenagers has proven to be quite the possibility, so we know someone is willing to take another’s life if given the right reason. Brendan’s interest in this death could be the next reason for this killer to strike again.
Everything in the story becomes a game of self-interest. The web of connectivity continues beyond what anyone can attempt to control, which makes seeing everything unfold such an entertaining ride as an audience member. The character may have some delusion of grandeur, but it adds to the fun of the movie. Even with the high stakes, the mystery will keep you guessing trying to figure who may be behind this murder, but who else may be involved and thus pose a threat to Brendan and his investigation.
Brick offers such a lively story, which will keep you on the edge of your seat attempting to figure out who is trustworthy and who the murderer might be. Things get out of hand and the conclusion puts everything together in a manner that makes complete sense and ties a nice bow on the themes and narrative of the feature. Truly a great feature directorial debut by Rian Johnson and a slew of fun performances by the young cast. A true neo-noir with the teenage hormonal twist to it.