A friend commented last year that Rian Johnson’s Looper made her feel “stupid” for having to read a plot synopsis to understand a sci-fi action film. Of course, Looper was an astoundingly complex film (to its benefit), and the same attributes are found in Johnson’s directorial debut, Brick. But where Looper’s complexities held audience attention and were anchored to an engaging emotional throughline, Brick is too often opaque to the point of frustration.
It’s a deliberate choice, as the film’s noir/high school setting allows it to pay homage to impenetrably plotted noirs like The Big Sleep, but I found myself puzzled as to the events and – more importantly – the motivations of all of Brick’s players – despite having seen it twice before! The density of the plot limits the enjoyment of the film.
Nonetheless, this is an excellent film, uniquely impressive. Johnson is an exciting director, using innovative shots and camera placements that demonstrate an admirable sense of space. The dialogue may be obscure, but it cleverly finds the middle ground between high school slang and noir posturing. Brick is lifted by an excellent soundtrack from Johnson’s brother. Recommended, but you might need to have a plot synopsis close at hand.