Every now and then a film comes along that makes you wonder exactly what the makers were thinking when they produced it. What possessed them to do something this way, when that way would do. Brick is one such film.
It is written and directed Rian Johnson whom I found because I read an article that he had been given one of the upcoming Star Wars films to direct and after looking at his IMDB profile I got interested in "Brick" becasue it was his first outing in feature film. There is a trend in Hollywood at the moment, one of which I approve, for the most part, of major studios hiring young talented indie directors to cover their super-mega projects. Monsters -> Godzilla... Super / Slither -> Guardians of the Galaxy... Chronicle -> Fantastic 4... that kind of thing.
It is hard to talk about Brick because at it's heart it's a mystery film, a well written and convoluted one though not exactly a baffling one. So there is very little you can really discuss without ruining the mystery. Though the interesting part is that the mystery isn't the point. This is more of a ride, it's main purpose is the experience delivered through the films style, this is what is important. So while the mystery and the discovery about it drives the story, the mystery is almost irrelevant to the films real focus. Nostalgia.
This entire film is throw back to the film noir. In some ways it is even more of a recreation of the classic black and whites that form the Golden Age of Cinema than China Town, before it. All the familiar cliches form the fem fatal, to rebellious tough guy shamus, the underbelly of crime stretching from fancy parties to criminal masterminds and the language.
The entire film is written as if it came directly from an Edward Robinson or Humphry Bogart film. "You set that poor kid up! You held Dode like a card 'till you could play him.".. this is an actual line from the film. Now, you could be mistaken in thinking that sounds really corny, because it kinda dose. Yet the film's director, who is also the writer fully commits to this. It is 100% deadpan, no mocking, no cynicism. It is presented as the reality of the world and as the reality is held true through out, it just works. So like when watching a Shakespeare play the use of unusual language in this film fades into normalcy going undetected, even become... well, just cool.
Still the most audacious thing is this is not a film set in the mean streets of Chicago but set on the campus of a high school staring high school children. This is the baffling part. Imagine if White Heat was set in a highschool and it was the exact same film just that setting change. This is what Brick is trying to be.
Is it a calculated move to get a film done at a much reduced cost? Is their a metaphor about school kids and their melodramatic problems, as the Golden Age films seam almost naive and silly to many now? Is it a commentary on how ideas recycle, and only the very young can truly believe that love is forever and that an idea is ever original? Is it because the setting takes some of the edge off the realism allowing the viewer to accept this strange fantasy version of how people behave more readily?
I'm not really sure, behind the reasoning of why this setting is chosen, this is why the film is so odd. Though I am absolutely sure this film could have been done with adults, even set in 40s Chicago and it would work, with nothing more than changing some of the names in the script. Like VP (Vice Principle) to PC (Police Chief) and the like.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. What it shows is that even with young adult actors not quite being able to pull off the requirements of the script, that a story purely character and plot driven can still be very enjoyable. This is more than a nostalgic look at scripting and characters. It is a comment on films. On what we have lost and what kids may never know.