Rian Johnson is currently one of my favorite writer/directors. Of course, with only three feature films on his resume, it could be argued that he hasn’t had the chance to let me down. Whatever the case, Johnson’s three films are all a bit on the risky side, but definitely worthwhile. He works with many of the same people across projects which gives the trio consistency. His other directing work includes an episode of Terriers (a TV show I adored) and several episodes of Breaking Bad.
Rian Johnson’s website includes the scripts of his movies.
A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. (via IMDB)
Brick is undeniably noir. The dialogue is sharp and stylishly overwrought. The world is relatively empty; only characters that concern us get time on-screen. Steve Yedlin, the cinematographer on all of Johnson’s movies, can imbue bright a football field with certain menace. While set in a high school, the movie is rated R, which might have made it a hard sell demographic-wise. I’ll admit that I was dubious of the film for that reason, and it requires a certain suspension of disbelief to accept the incongruity of the plot and the setting. After the first time I watched this movie, I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it, but I did want to watch it again.
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Now they’ve decided to take on one last job – showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world. (via IMDB)
Honestly, it would have been hard for me to not like this movie. A heist with Rachel Weisz? Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as con men? Quriky style? Aside from Ghostbusters, there might not be a film more perfectly suited to me. The world of The Brothers Bloom isn’t quite reality. The entire film feels like an elaborate magic trick, skipping in tone from a 40s familiar pick-a-card slight-of-hand to 80s slick set-piece illusions and back again. It’s a great looking, slightly absurd movie that I don’t think enough people have seen.
In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self. (via IMDB)
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, this is by far Rian Johnson’s most well-known movie. While its “present” is our future, like Brick, Looper has a noir sensibility. Much of the movie’s set-up is given to us in voice-over by Joe. He tells us about blunderbusses, gat men, and how one “closes the loop.” There is a conscious nod to the past. “How can you kids stand to wear those chokers?” asks Abe, a man from the future, referring to the current (future) fashion of wearing ties. “The movies that you’re dressing like are just copying other movies.” Looper itself might borrow from other movies, but Johnson creates a interestingly rendered future and a well put together time travel flick.