AFI Movie Club: BRICK – American Film Institute
Brick Film Still - Joseph Gordon-Levitt


AFI Movie Club: BRICK

BRICK, a neo-noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hardboiled high school detective looking to solve the mystery behind the death of his ex-girlfriend, marks the feature directorial debut of Rian Johnson. The film was produced by AFI Conservatory alum Dana Lustig (Class of 1988), and Johnson has also spoken to AFI Fellows at Harold Lloyd Master Seminars. 

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BRICK – Reelgood

Watch director Rian Johnson talk about making his feature directorial debut BRICK in this exclusive video from the AFI Archive:

Movie Trivia about BRICK

DID YOU KNOW? Writer/director Rian Johnson credits the novels of Dashiell Hammett and the Coen Brothers’ MILLER’S CROSSING as inspirations for the film. Johnson has said, “BRICK [was] really my attempt to capture the impact that reading Dashiell Hammett for the first time had on me.”

DID YOU KNOW? James McAvoy read for the part of Brendan early on, but then he went on to do CHILDREN OF DUNE, leaving the role open for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to step into the shoes of the hardboiled detective.

DID YOU KNOW? The production shot BRICK in San Clemente, CA, at Rian Johnson’s former high school.

DID YOU KNOW? Production designer Jodie Tillen said that local authorities told them that they couldn’t guarantee their safety while filming in the tunnel – as it was a working runoff tunnel, prone to rushing water. However, the filmmakers pressed on and Rian Johnson said, “It add[ed] to the tension of the scenes.”

DID YOU KNOW? Director Rian Johnson first worked with actress Nora Zehetner on Lucky McKee’s MAY in 2002, on which he served as an editor. When it came time to cast the femme fatale of Laura in BRICK, he immediately thought of her for the role.

DID YOU KNOW? Director Rian Johnson’s cousin Nathan, who is a member of the band The Cinematic Underground, scored BRICK. Johnson has said, “We had zero budget, so it was about creating a score with what was at hand. We used wine glasses, filing cabinets and utensils for that score.”

DID YOU KNOW? Rian Johnson won the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision for BRICK.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What is the title – BRICK – in reference to?

-How did films like BRICK and MYSTERIOUS SKIN showcase Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s range and reveal his transition from child actor to edgy character actor?

-What is your favorite film noir? How would you categorize a typical neo-noir?

-How does BRICK lean in and pay homage to classic film noir conventions and how does it buck certain tropes?

-What signature camera angles, lighting and mise-en-scène put a noir-like stamp on the film?

-What did you think about the filmmakers transposing a classical film noir to a high school setting? What effect does this have on the film?

-While the film involves teenagers, it also received an R rating for violence and drug use. How is the violence portrayed and how is it organic to the filmmaker’s vision and to the genre itself?

-What did you think of the hardboiled detective jargon of the film? Focus Features actually provided a glossary of terms when the film was released. Why do you think the distributor decided to do this?

-How would you rate BRICK?

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