Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brick


  Watching Brick was an experience. The proceedings are simply enough described, but theres so much more under the hood than you might assume.  "A loner navigates the dense social network of his high school to uncover a crime ring and solve his ex girlfriend's murder."  Simple enough. Right?  But what the back of the case can't possibly tell you is how much this feels like a big, noir, 30's detective mystery.  Once you think of it like that, the parallels nearly jump off the screen at you. Its wonderful.

  Joseph Gordon Levitt is undeniably a very good actor. But I had only been familiar with him in supporting roles. For some reason, movies like Brick, Hesher, and 500 Days of Summer keep falling through the cracks of my "To See" list.  However, last night I was bored and in need of a decent murder mystery. Without hesitation, a couple friends of mine recommended Brick.  Familiar enough with the title, and the actor, I thought: "Why the hell not?"  I'm so glad I didn't hesitate or get distracted by something else. This movie was deserving of my undivided attention.

  Visually the movie is stunning. It creates a foreign atmosphere using often overlooked sides of familiar places. What movie hangs around behind coffee shops and in the back of big school buildings? Parking lots, gutters, ditches and sewers? Theses are all places we take for granted. But to have settings placed almost behind the main lines of what we normally see... is rather unique. And refreshing to be honest. It all has a grimy feel to it. These are the places that harbor the goings-about of shady individuals up to no good. The look of the places often match the individuals that populate it.  For a movie thats so high-school centric, we hardly ever see the typical adolescent bullshit that goes on in teen drama movies. The teens here operate in their own world, they plot, navigate, and survive in ruthless social circles. Someone is always keeping tabs on someone else.

  Coming to my ultimate point, it doesn't feel like you're watching a bunch of teens.  This is where I started to connect the dots with the noir-ish P.I. tropes.  Brendan, (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is obviously the private eye who gets the call from a dame who's deep in trouble. She's in deep with the wrong people and needs help getting out.  The private eye tries to help but before he knows it, she turns up dead and the case just turned into a revenge thing.  Its a classic story, but instead of dirty trenchcoats and cold city nights huddled under a streetlight, or lounge singers in nightclubs, we have the settings and characters provided to us by this world the teens inhabit.  There is in fact a femme fatale, a red herring, a drug lord, his muscle bound goon, the hero's usful informant/sidekick and of course the slowly unraveled backstory of our protagonist and his girl.

  Ontop of this brilliance, we have fantastic camera work. It shows off the preceedings in a very fresh and undeniably unique way. Its awesome. Every other scene has a clever camera maneuver or editing trick to keep it visiually interesting and endlessly stylish.  It never descends into gimmicry. Its just subtle touchs here and there, and occassionally an artistic flair. In short, Brick is a fantastic movie to simply look at.  Its all the better that it has a great and engaging story, and a protagonist as timeless as the classic tropes upon which the movie builds on.  And if this sounds too "art film-y" for the rest of you, fear not. Brick is at its core a fast paced murder mystery with a fair amount of intense parts.  Like one of my favorite movies, Drive, it contains the action to necessity, not excess. There are a few fight scenes, and they are well edited, but it works off of character. Which I personally think makes them entirely more entertaining.

  As is the case with the whole movie. It actually has a breakneck pace. Stop paying attention for a few minutes and you're going to miss important details. Its raw entertainment with very few drawbacks. Its doesn't ever fumble the ball or have a crap 3rd act, or have poor acting, or any of the usual stuff.  Its that... when you break it down, the characters are merely archetypes, and the things they're going through is an outline. Its flaw is in its design. But because the design is something so awesome to experience and take in, theres no possible justification for calling it on the carpet for it. 

  In conclusion, Brick is a fascinating movie thats thoroughly engaging and wholly entertaining. Its a murder mystery and a crime thriller of the finest degree. It gets major points for originality and uniqueness. In my humble opinion, Brick is a must see.

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