Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brick - New Noir

Brick, a 2006 film written and directed by Rian Johnson, is worth seeing for its versatility and re-imaging of old school film noir. Much the same way Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet juxtaposed the language of classical Shakespeare with modern imagery and culture, Johnson places the lingo of 1940s and '50s private detectives in the setting of modern drug rings and high school drama.

I mean seriously, check out this dialogue:
"Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you."
..."Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that who scored it from this who bought it off so and after four or five connections the list always ends with the Pin. But I bet you got every rat in town together and said 'show your hands' if any of them've actually seen the Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets."
For a film geek like me, this is just awesome.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom you may remember from 10 Things I Hate About You, plays the lead guy who tries to uncover the happenings that led to the murder of his ex-girlfriend. He seems to channel a strange but compelling combination of Humphrey Bogart in Maltese Falcon and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain - the semi-silent but determined outcast with an instinct for digging for answers in the right places, motivated by a still broken heart and lingering sentiment for the past love in question.

Emelie de Ravin, who is now fabulous on ABC's Lost as Claire, makes only a few appearances in the film but is beautiful nonetheless. She plays the ex-girlfriend, an elusive and frightened character that begs for sympathy without saying much at all. 

The cinematography is great, and the use of non-linear time (typically via flashback) is one of the traditional markers of classic film noir. The character Laura fulfills the role of the femme fatale of unknown allegiance, another noir marker that was first made famous by the eternally amazing Marlene Dietrich as the genre came of age (in America) in the 1940s. Nearly all the performances are spot-on, and the setting of this story against high school seniors (rather than midlife detectives and criminals) makes for a backburner commentary on the kind of reality that kids grow up with today.  

Overall, the film is an excellent resurfacing of this under appreciated genre, and is a refreshing change of pace from the usual Hollywood attempts at something different.

No comments: