Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Rian Johnson - remember the name. This filmmaker is one to keep and eye on. With his debut Brick he has crafted an original piece of movie magic in a very familiar setting - a Californian high school.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an actor much like his director, a name you will hear a lot more about. Critically praised for his performance in Mysterious Skin, he has jumped from teen films to more adult work, which allows him to display his obvious talent in more demanding roles.

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He plays Brendan, a loner, who keeps himself to himself. When ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) asks for his help, he is drawn from his hideaway on the playing fields and becomes involved with drama queens, testosterone-fuelled jocks and outcast junkies who lurk around this seemingly perfect high school.

The movie opens with a dead body in the sewer system. It is Brendan's ex. So why did she ask for help? In order to answer this question he must take a social and physical journey to discover what actually happened and find out what that word "brick" means. Is it significant? Will it lead him to the truth?

Brendan enlists the help of The Brain (Matt O'Leary), a friend who knows the inner workings of the school and becomes his source of information. I especially liked the constant use of telephone boxes as a means of contact. It adds to the urgency, as Brendan is always looking over his shoulder and keeping track of the steps he has made.

When pursuing the course of the mystery, he is called upon to fight. Tall and skinny, he is no boxing champ, but can hold his own. It is during these scenes that writer/director Johnson experiments with his camera, taking the viewer right into the bruising action, which is very effective.

One particular beating leads him to the house of a notorious drug dealer, The Pin (Lukas Haas), who runs a heroin business from the basement of his mother's house. The remainder of the journey and the outcome of the detective story is best left untold.

Levitt is a revelation, carrying the film on his slender shoulders, with an enthralling performance. Steve Yedlin's cinematography is luminous, making his choice of lighting and composition first rate, while the dialogue is snappy, smart and instantly quotable.

The early festival buzz should help Brick's cause. Miss it and miss out!

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2005
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A teenager investigates the underworld of a local high school.
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Read more Brick reviews:

Anton Bitel ****
Jennie Kermode ****

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Nora Zehetner, Noah Segan, Noah Fleiss, Emilie de Ravin, Meagan Good, Matt O'Leary

Year: 2005

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US

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