Movie Review: Brick

By  · Published on August 14th, 2006

Release Date: August 8, 2006

I have been on the Brick bandwagon for months now; and ever since seeing it at the Columbus alive Deep Focus Film Festival in May I have been absolutely engrossed in the astounding brilliance of this film. It is so hard these days to find films that are so original, so daring and so faithful to a genre.

Rian Johnson’s modern day high school crime drama dashed in a world that noir built sets the stage for a story that keeps us guessing as much as it pins our asses to our seats. As with classic noir, the film sets its main character, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, in a cynical world, trapped in the midst of turmoil and mystery. Levitt’s Brendon is a loner, a self inflicted reject of the mass populous of his high school, but he loves Emily (Emilie De Raven). And when Emily turns up dead, Brendon buries himself in the underground world of drugs and corruption that claimed the life of his sweetheart.

And therein lies the hook, the moment when Brendan sets out to find out what happened to Emily. The film, which begins methodically, moves forward with a feverish pace filled with sharp dialogue and erratic twists and turns. It is a true stroke of brilliance in filmmaking, especially for such a young director. Johnson is able to capture the attention of his audience, reel them in, and slap them in the face with the mother of all cliffhangers in the end. It is this fact that sets Brick apart from other films that I have seen this year; the story is engaging and delicious, the acting is right on the money, and the director’s style reeks more of years of experience rather than having no previous features under his belt.

And while I could talk about the fantastic style or bright future of the young director, I cannot overlook the amazing performances that bring this cold world to life. Joseph Gordon Levitt, whom you may only remember from Mysterious Skin or even more notably from the TV show Third Rock from the Sun, delivers the performance of a lifetime as our downtrodden hero Brendan. It is very easy to see the ferocious rage and emotion that lies beneath Brendan’s snide, collected persona. In combination with that, relative newcomer Nora Zehetner plays Laura, the girl whose devious motive often gets lost in her ability to manipulate the situation around her. Zehetner’s performance is scary good, making me glad that I have never run across such an intelligent tramp as Laura. In combination with Levitt, her performance breathes an amazing amount of life into this already rich story making for what I will once again proclaim as my “favorite film of the year, hands down!”

So for these reasons, as you could expect, I was elated to finally be able to own this one on DVD. As it was the first film of the year to really knock my pants off, it was my most anticipated DVD purchase. The best part is that the DVD comes away adding a great deal to my enjoyment of the film; there is a very insightful and well articulated commentary with director Rian Johnson. It also includes some deleted scenes that were only cut from the movie to keep it from moving too slowly. And while I can see why they were cut out, I would not have complained if they were left in the film. And furthermore I was glad to see that they made the DVD.

On visual and audible quality, this film works so inexplicably well. The score has an eerie tone, the cinematography is meticulous and the film exudes the dark cynical nature of classic noir. It is as if Johnson is reinventing the genre for a completely new generation, and that is why there is no reason why you should not go out and buy Brick on DVD. This is a film that deserves an audience and even more importantly does not disappoint one bit.

The Upside: The film shows absolute brilliance on the part of its creator, displays some killer acting, and keeps us guessing all the way until the credits roll. What a ride!

The Downside: The film was sentenced only to the Film Festival circuit, so the buzz around the DVD is low.

On the Side: The film was shot in Rian Johnson’s home town, and the High School featured is the one he attended himself.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)