I wasn’t sure where to put this movie, after I saw it and was dying to do a review. After all, it’s not exactly a new movie. It was made back in 2005. So should I put it in my Retro Reviews? Well, that didn’t seem right, because that was for stuff that I had seen or played years back and was reminiscing on. This was something that I had never seen before and so it should be something that I don’t view as retro. But this is a movie that I wanted to tell you all about, because I hadn’t even heard of this film before I saw a video by WatchMojo on YouTube. It has one of my favorite actors, who I think should be getting a lot more respect and it had a premise that seemed unique enough to hold my attention. So, I decided to do a review and tell you all about it too, so you can know and see it for yourselves.
Now, the first thing to talk about with this film is the fact that it is set in high school. This movie seems self-aware enough to know that almost everybody who is in this film is clearly in their 20’s, so they decide to ignore the setting as much as they can and focus on more important things, like the taut nature of the plot, the characters, and more importantly – the mood. Mood means a lot to me in a movie. It is the center of so much of the elements in a film, and it is something you take away when you get done watching a movie or leave the theater.
Anyway, the premise is that a young student, played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, named Brendan. He is a smart kind of PI who is an outcast and school, along with something of a misanthrope. He is outwardly cold but inside has strong principles. He does work for people, but tries to know as little as possible. His guiding principal has always been to keep his nose clean and not get too involved in people’s problems. This type of character sound familiar? In any case, his ex-girlfriend hits him up and is in trouble. He tries to help her, which leads to him getting sucked into a web of drugs, lies, and gangs, where nothing is as it seems. The further he gets in, the more he realizes that he may not come out at all.
So, did you all catch something? The main character is an investigator. He’s a loner. He’s a bit of a libertine but he keeps it classy. He’s outwardly cynical but has a deep set of principals on the inside. Sound familiar? That, ladies and germs, is a description of a good noire-style protagonist. And this film is, in my not-humble opinion, one of the best modern noire films that I have ever seen. Everything about it screams good noire. You have a fallen world where the protagonist is trying to navigate. It’s a labyrinth of deception and intrigue where the hero is among the few who can navigate it. I keep expecting to see this guy in a fedora and trench coat. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in an amazing performance as a great noire protagonist. This guy is amazing. I could watch this movie just for his role.
Though the story was incredibly gripping. As far as who-dun-it stories go, this one had me gripping my soda bottle pretty hard. I keeps you on the edge of your seat because you never know where it is going to go next. Each performance in this movie is great, with you never knowing what to think about any particular character. Even the victim of the story is hard to peg, with you not knowing everything about how it went down.
The mood in this film was captured perfectly. They had a subtle use of music that often was either totally or partially influenced by the events happening on the screen. You have music playing in a car that gets softer as the car moves away from the camera. There were smaller examples, but that disconnected nature is signature of this film. This is a movie where you go from disconcerting place to disconcerting place, never knowing what to think. It makes Levitt’s character and his ability to navigate all this that much more impressive. Mood means a lot to me, and this film got it down almost flawlessly.
The premise of the film, that it is set in high school, is clearly a backdrop, and this film knows it. It’s like in “Blade Runner,” where they set this same kind of story in the future. It’s all futuristic and whatnot, but at its core, it is still a noire film. The usage of noire film tropes, along with great detective story ones, in this setting is so engaging, because they play it straight. It’s like the film doesn’t care how odd this is. It is doing this how it wants to. This devil-may-care approach to film-making, and I hope to see it more in the future.
I love this movie, in case you haven’t noticed. I am so glad that I heard about it. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend that you go out and watch it immediately enough. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. With so many shitty movies being made, it’s encouraging to see a young actor coming into his nose right under our noses. I hope to see more of what this director can do. He’s set the bar high.
9 out of 10