Writer/director Rian Johnson’s third film Looper explodes in cinemas this Thursday in all its time travelling glory. But before Johnson rocked our worlds with a sci-fi existential crisis or made us fall in love with the con-caper all over again in The Brothers Bloom, there was Brick. Just Brick. Shot at his old highschool and with a crew comprised of many, many relatives, it was more than a passion project. It was a piece of his soul. Dark, gripping and quietly intelligent, Brick bookmarked Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ones to watch (and with good reason).

Rian Johnson

Really, that’s what the brilliance of Brick comes down to. Yes, JGL’s performance is tits, the ensemble cast incredible, the score understated and brilliant, but strip all that away and what you’re left with are the mind pearls of Rian Johnson.

The balls

A noir detective drama set in a highschool. Nuff said.

JGL

The boy has goods, there’s no denying. Yet it wasn’t until Brick that we discovered Joseph Gordon-Levitt could Bogart with the best of them. The year prior he wowed festival crowds with his ferocious and unrelenting portrayal of a gay hustler in Mysterious Skin. His role as Brendan Frye in Brick couldn’t have been more different. Subtle, simmering and sympathetic, JGL brought an intensity and intelligence to the character that made him more than just some ‘meddling kid’. His delivery of Johnson’s biting prose is flawless, so too the dialogue-free moments where he exposes emotions like protruding bones. The movie-goers who recognise JGL as Chris Nolan’s Robin or the heartbroken sap taken advantage of by Summer have probably never seen Brick. For those amongst us who have, that’s when we were first influenced by the powers of Levitt-ation.

Prose before hoes

“I didn't shake the party up to get your attention, and I'm not heeling you to hook you. Your connections could help me, but the bad baggage they bring would make it zero sum game or even hurt me. I'm better off coming at it clean.” – Brendan Frye

What a score

Brick was the beginning of a beautiful partnership that began at birth for Rian Johnson and his brother Nathan, who’s responsible for the haunting score. Like a creepy children’s nursery rhyme mixed with something indescribably suspenseful, the music helped build Brick’s elaborate tower of cards. Atmospheric with a capital A, Nathan’s pieces have only increased in scale and scope as he’s gone on to work on his brother’s films The Brothers Bloom and Looper.

Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz