Brick is set in a high school, with your everyday high school cliques, but it is no way your typical high school film. The 2005 release written and directed by Rian Johnson is dark, sleuthy, and sophisticated, often described as a film in the neo-noir genre.
When Brendan Frye (Gordon-Levitt), a student of the “loner” kind, finds the body of his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin), he sets out to seek the truth behind her murder. Enlisting the help of The Brain (Matt O’Leary), Brendan finds himself navigating through the clique system of his school–from the athletes and popular kids, to the drama queens and bullies–all of them having at least one member who are key to solving Emily’s murder. These people lead Brendan to the underground drug czar known as The Pin (Lukas Haas), who has all the answers to all of his questions…or does he? This story about a high school crime ring, a winner of two awards at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, co-stars Nora Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good, and Brian White.
While the plot may be a bit hard to follow for some people, the questions of “Who dunnit?” and “Why?” will keep you glued to your seat, but more than that, Brick has exceptional elements for an excellent film. The dialogue is very well-written, its delivery by the actors remarkable, the cinematography outstanding (I seriously can’t emphasize this enough — one of the most visually pleasing films I’ve ever seen for a seemingly simple drama), and the score going hand-in-hand with the script’s intensity. It’s such a stylish and mature film for a high school setting and while it’s a bit amusing that these young students can talk and act like old-time gangsters, it’s a huge part of what makes Brick so intriguing. If you want to experience a taste of that 1940s flavor in a young and modern setting, Brick is definitely your movie.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
The 2009 indie Uncertainty is another unique Gordon-Levitt film — actually, make that two films in one movie. That’s right — Uncertainty is directed by two individuals, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, for a film that follows two completely different narratives.
The film opens on July 4th with Bobby (Gordon-Levitt) and his girlfriend Kate (Lynn Collins) on the Brooklyn Bridge. Bobby flips a coin to determine where they’ll go next and how their holiday will ultimately pan out. On one side, an action thriller: The couple goes to Manhattan, where Bobby finds a cell phone on a cab. The phone is highly sought-after and contains valuable information and Bobby and Kate find themselves on a wild goose chase throughout the borough, dodging henchmen who claim that the phone is theirs. On the other side: a mellow family drama: The time is split between Brooklyn and Queens when the couple decides to attend a BBQ at Lynn’s family’s house. Lynn struggles to decide whether or not to tell her difficult and disapproving family that she and Bobby are expecting a child. The scenes from both narratives are intercut, but it’s easy to tell which one you’re watching — you can tell by the coordinating colors of clothes the couple is wearing (Yellow for Manhattan, green for Brooklyn/Queens).
Uncertainty left much to be desired. The endings of both narratives were a bit of a letdown, taking the term uncertainty a little too literally. The Manhattan narrative was slightly more interesting, while the Brooklyn/Queens story could have been much, much better developed. Collins’ performance as the female lead was quite dull and left me unmoved, until about the last 15 minutes of the film. But even with all its flaws, I personally enjoyed the unique storytelling and concept, the understated action sequences, the realness of the family tensions, the New York City setting, and the camera work. And I must admit, I have yet to see a film where JGL can do any wrong (Even though I heard G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra was pretty bad. But let’s save that for another day). Not exactly a must-see-or-you’ll-die movie, but it is recommended viewing if you can fit it in your Netflix queue somehow.
OVERALL SCORE: 7/10