#53 - Brick (2005)

Posted April 7, 2015

Well, this turned out to be a weird episode. Half of it is devoted to Rian Johnson’s masterpiece Brick (2005), while the other half, spurred somehow by a conversation of the TV show The Slap, became about vigilante child abuse justice, and whether or not Brian is Batman.

Along with many other aspects of the film, we discussed Johnson’s shots of school locations. There are a lot of these, and by some unwritten rule of public school architecture, all locations within campus look exactly the same. Johnson gives each location a visual signature the first time we see it, so that on subsequent visits we can quickly understand where we are. This speed of comprehension is even more necessary when paired with the film’s rapid-fire dialogue sequences.

  • Figure 1. Brendan and the Brain's meeting place, first appearance
  • Figure 2a. Meeting spot, second appearance. No establishing shot; wall line visible in this tight shot of Brain.
  • Figure 2b. Meeting spot, second appearance. No establishing shot; blue containers visible.
  • Figure 3. Third appearance of this location. Same lines as in the first establishing shot.


In the same vein, Brendan approaches the backstage area of the theater to visit Kara from two different directions. The strategic placement of potted plants clues us in.

  • Figure 4. Brendan's first visit backstage; his approach is captured by a camera from the direction of stage left.
  • Figure 5. Second visit backstage. The camera is pointing stage right, crossing the line. The potted plants help us figure it out.
  • Figure 6. No relevance to this discussion, but a gorgeous shot.


During Brendan’s discussion with Trueman, the extreme angle- along with decades of cop movie visual language- dictates that Gordon-Levitt points his chin at the Vice Principal very unnaturally. This is emphasized when, for a moment, you see Gordon-Levitt settle into a natural position before correcting.

  • Figure 7. Gordon-Levitt's unnatural angle; chin pointed towards the camera.
  • Figure 8. A more natural neck-angle, for a split-second.


We also briefly discussed a popular theory that Brain is a figment of Brendan’s imagination, which we soundly disagreed with. One of the supporting arguments (or so I’m guessing) is that Brain seems to walk out of- and back into- Brendan’s head in the final scene.

  • Figure 9. You can barely see Brain's leg to the right of Brendan's head as he walks into frame.
  • Figure 10. Brain walks back into Brendan's head. There's a cut that prevents us from seeing Brain cross the rest of the frame.


Rian Johnson is one of my favorite filmmakers, and the fact that he has the script for this film available for free online sure doesn’t hurt. I pored over this thing obsessively in the early days of the internet when status quo was for artists to maintain the wall between them and the public, despite the existence of technology that provides the opportunity for level ground. The page is still up: http://www.rcjohnso.com/BrickScript.html

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good, Brian White

Brick [Blu-ray]
Brick [Amazon Instant Video]

Brick (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Nathan Johnson & The Cinematic Underground