You better be sure you wanna know what you wanna know- Kara
This week’s Netflix film is a detective noir film that is quickly becoming a cult classic. The film Brick, written and directed by the mind behind Looper Rian Johnson, is a modern day detective story following the structure and theme of classic film and literature. The film’s principle mystery is a murder but what is unique about it is it takes the classic detective film and puts it into High School.
I’m going to try and simplify the fairly complicated plot into only a few paragraphs. In this story, our loner detective is student Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon Levitt). Brendan is a sad and lonely young man after being dumped by his girlfriend Emily Kostich (Emilie de Ravin) and turning his friend into the authorities. After receiving a mysterious, panicked call from Emily asking for help, Brendan uses the leader of her group of stoner friends Dode (Noah Segan) to get in contact with her. Denying everything she said on the phone, Brendan steals her notebook. Following an odd symbol in it, Brendan finds Emily’s dead body and takes it upon himself to solve her murder.
Brendan’s search puts him directly in the middle of a drug war. After hearing Emily say “the Pin” on the phone, Brendan figures out that the Pin is in fact a person. Brendan meets with the Pin, a drug dealer, to try and figure out why Emily was murdered. While it takes him a while to uncover anything of consequence, Brendan eventually learns that Emily’s death may have had to do with a shipment of heroin bricks, a shipment in which one brick was missing. As Brendan continues to pry he meets Laura (Nora Zehetner), a woman who at first seems innocent, and Tugger (Noah Floeiss), the Pin’s violent and angry muscle. Working himself to the bone, Brian stops sleeping and puts himself in harms way to solve the murder. As a drug war blossoms around him, Brendan needs to determine who he trusts, avoid having Emily’s murder pinned on him and stay away from an increasing number of people that are trying to harm him all while solving a murder.
This film stemmed from Johnson’s obsession with classic detective stories, especially Dashiell Hammett. This film was a brilliant example of film noir. Dark and gritty, the film was well written and though it was somewhat complicated, the plot wasn’t difficult to follow. What I loved about this film was the fact that it was a hard boiled detective story but most of the characters are High Schoolers. Joseph Gordon Levitt is perfect as the loner detective, putting everything he has into the case even at the expense of his own health. While he is connected with other groups in the school, it is obvious that Brendan keeps to himself. A conversation with the school’s principal further solidifies Brendan as a private detective character. It becomes clear that Brendan has, reluctantly, helped the principal solve a case. The dynamic is such that Brendan is a private detective that helps the police, the school administration when they need it but is not a member of the police force. The film is a true hard-boiled detective noir film, from the vocabulary to the characters to the story that was brilliantly adapted to a High School setting with High School characters.
It is my opinion that Rian Johnson has a great career in front of him. I thought Looper was brilliant and now, after seeing Brick, understand the man’s true talent. With a great script and a great director, Joseph Gordon Levitt is perfectly cast. Now, if you don’t like film noir this might not be the movie for you. For film noir fans, like me, I give this film a 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it.
Prior to seeing Looper in theaters, I thought the entire movie was going to be a sci-fi, action fuelled, mind blowing experience. The film was certainly mind-blowing and action filled but it was so much more than that. I feel that the previews for Looper were very misleading. Did you know that there was a child in it that was a main character? Did you know that half the film took place on a farm? If your answer was no to either of these questions don’t feel bad because before walking into the theater I didn’t know any of that either. The film itself was outstanding, playing with the laws of physics just enough to blow a fuse in your mind but not allowing the science fiction to get in the way of the unique plot and character development.
“Time travel hasn’t been invented yet but 30 years from now, it will have been.” The sentence starts the film, launching the audience into the mind-bending concept of what a Looper is. In the future, disposing of a body is nearly impossible so gangs use time travel in secret to send people they need disposed of back in time. The main character Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a man hired by the future mobs to kill the men sent back in time. The man appears at a certain time and the second the Looper sees them, he shoots. Money is taped to the man’s back so the Looper gets paid and the body is disposed of. The Looper’s are run by a man named Abe (Jeff Daniels) who has been sent back from the future to keep a handle on them. When a Looper has run their course, the mob finds them and sends them back to be killed unknowingly by their thirty year younger self. It’s called closing your loop and yields a golden pay day. The first quarter of the film exists just to get us used to the world of the Looper. A drug filled, blunderbuss (their version of a shotgun) toting insanity of an existence. There is a genetic mutation called TK that effects a small percent of the population, allowing low grade, fairly useless telekinetic powers. Paul Dano steals a number of scenes as Seth, Joe’s Looper friend, until he fails to close his loop, showing the horror Abe can impart if you allow your future self to escape.
The plot of the film really begins when the mob attempts to close Joe’s loop. Future Joe (Bruce Willis) is not quite ready to die and manages to run away from young Joe. Determined to kill his future self before the mob catches and tortures him, young Joe tries to hunt himself down. In the process, he figures out why his future self is so dead set on life. In the future, a holy terror named the Rainmaker has risen up and taken over every gang. Closing every loop and running the world with fear and terror, the Rainmaker has turned into a kind of tyrant. With information about the Rainmaker, future Joe has determined he is one of three people. When future Joe is was sent back in time, he was sent back in time to a year where the Rainmaker was only ten. Future Joe figures that if he can kill the three children that may grow up to be the Rainmaker then he will change the future and his past. Young Joe picks one of the children, Cid (Pierce Gagnon) and goes to his house. Trying to be cryptic but eventually explaining everything to Cid’s mother Sara (Emily Blunt), Joe stays to protect Cid and hopefully catch and kill his future self.
What was amazing about this film was that it was a time travel film that refused to talk about time travel. Rather than getting into the parts of time travel that could raise questions about how it could exist and not destroy time itself or create a paradox, the film creates rules that keeps those things from happening. Abe has been sent back in time to deal with the messy details of time travel. That is enough explanation for the Loopers and therefore enough for the audience as well. The film doesn’t completely ignore the implications of time travel and peppers the film with mind blowing concepts. Beyond the unique plot and script the film featured some impressive performances. Bruce Willis gave a great performance as a man willing to do anything to fix the future but is painfully aware of the horrors he is committing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt becomes young Bruce Willis, talking like him and taking over his movements and mannerisms. Emily Blunt is heartbreaking as a struggling mother but I think my favorite performance came from young Pierce Gagnon. Not only did Pierce hold his own with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he actually stole some scenes from the veteran actor. Able to move the dialogue on with just his facial expressions, Pierce is a quiet, mature child with the soul of a mob boss. The shots, script and impressive child acting all rolled together to make this one of the most terrifying and lovable child characters I have seen on screen.
The only complaint I could have about this film was that it felt like two different films. The first half of the film, where young Joe is off of Sarah’s farm, and the second half, where is on the farm, are vastly different. Sci-Fi reigns supreme in the first half of the film while the second half is a more wait in suspense, character driven film. The slight disconnect between the first and second half of the film is noticeable but does not hurt the film at all. A sci-fi action film featuring great acting and a unique storyline, Looper is a must see for anybody who is a fan of any genre I have mentioned in this post. I give Looper an 8.5 out of 10 and couldn’t be happier to have seen a unique, fresh action film.