Director: Rian Johnson
Screenwriters: Rian Johnson

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


A number of films have attempted to take and contemporize the film noir aesthetic, but never has it been done so precisely and earnestly as in Rian Johnson's scintillating debut, Brick.

Brendan Fry is a loner at his high school, someone who knows all the angles but has chosen to stay on the outside. When the girl he loves turns up dead, he plunges into the school's social strata like a fist through a honeycomb to find the "who" and "why," with the same single-minded devotion to his self-appointed task as the hard-boiled heroes of old.

The film is rife with familiar character types in deliciously unfamiliar roles: the sociopathic sexpot is the queen of the drama geeks; the chief of police is the vice principal; the trusty operative is a nerd in coke-bottle glasses; the heavy (brilliantly portrayed by Lukas Haas) is a 26-year-old drug dealer who lives in his mom's basement; and of course the femme fatale is now the head cheerleader.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt unleashes an inspired performance as the fast-talking, ultracool protagonist. Johnson displays a complete understanding of cinematic language, paying homage to the classics but also creating his own style by injecting the film with contemporary exuberance, humor, and locale. Brick is a directorial debut of extraordinary promise.

(Archives note: see also Rian Johnson's Meet The Artist interview on our YouTube Channel.)

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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