Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Bruce McGill, Isla Fisher
Director: Scott Frank
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: August 14, 2007
“I HAVE THE MONEY, I HAVE THE POWER!”
Screenwriter Scott Frank, whose writing credits include such gems as Out of Sight and Minority Report, has crafted an astonishing masterpiece with his directorial debut, The Lookout. It’s an absorbing character study crossed with a film noir of intense proportions. It’s without question the best character based thriller since Memento, which is about the best level of high praise any film can hope to attain.
Frank has clearly studied every aspect of film noir. Having already adapted two Elmore Leonard novels to the screen (Out of Sight and Get Shorty), it’s clear that Frank was only warming up before taking on the perfect choice for his first directing gig. In addition, he’s directing his very own screenplay, which is a masterful piece of originality even in spite of its numerous noir inspirations.
Like Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough thriller, The Lookout places the viewer in the shoes of a damaged character. His name is Chris Pratt, played amazingly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a star-making performance. At the beginning of the film, Chris is a high schooler with the absolute perfect life. He’s a star hockey player with a beautiful girlfriend and a brilliant life ahead of him.
Then a horrific automobile accident changes everything.
Now Chris, who was behind the wheel the night of the accident, is a young man with endless feelings of guilt and depression. The accident also resulted in the deaths of two close friends, as well as his girlfriend losing a leg. Chris, as a result, suffered serious damage to his frontal lobe, causing him to have huge gaps in his memory. His condition also makes him say certain random thoughts out loud, even the most explicit ones.
Chris now works as the night janitor at the town bank, which is about the only job his condition will allow him to have. The only opportunity in his sights is to become a teller during the day shift, which even the bank manager thinks he’s not responsible enough to be. He lives with a blind roommate named Lewis (Jeff Daniels), who is planning to one day open up his own restaurant with Chris (his desired name of the place is absolutely priceless).
But Chris’s condition can also make him an easy target for anyone to take advantage of, and that’s exactly what happens when a guy named Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) bumps into Chris at a bar, intentionally of course. Gary, who claims to be a former schoolmate, seems like a friendly chap and even gets Chris hooked up with a beauty named Luvlee (Isla Fisher). But Gary’s smooth charmer act is a way to get Chris involved in his plan to rob the very bank he cleans every night.
Of course, Chris wants absolutely nothing to do with the bank robbery, but Gary convinces him that his motivation for doing it is to help him get a ticket to a new life. Even though we know better as to what Gary’s real motivation is, he makes some convincing points to Chris about the money being able to help him. Chris, after all, comes from a well off family, but even Gary knows that his father won’t give him money if he asked.
The Lookout is one of those rare films that gets better and better with each progressing sequence. The character exploration is nothing short of riveting, and the tension that builds to the bank robbery is incredible. And as for the bank robbery sequence, Frank has done a masterful job of executing it in such a way that you don’t really know what is going to happen. One particular shot of three men hiding in different sections of the bank as a cop approaches left me awestruck.
If anything, The Lookout has delivered two star-making performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who in one review of this film has already been compared to Brando, is purely remarkable in the lead role. He becomes this damaged character from minute one and it’s impossible to not be affected by his performance. And Matthew Goode, a British actor who was part of the ensemble in Match Point, is equally brilliant and extremely unrecognizable in both look and voice as the sinister Gary.
In addition, Jeff Daniels continues his grand streak of outstanding supporting performances as the blind Lewis. Daniels acquires many of the film’s great lines and I can’t even spoil any of them for you, as they are too good to reveal in advance. And although she doesn’t have a lot of screen time, the beautiful Isla Fisher is a luminous screen presence as Chris’ love interest.
The Lookout has already earned its place on my list as one of the very best films of the year. Those who truly appreciate film noir as much as writer/director Scott Frank does are in for something of a phenomenal treat. The directing, writing, and acting are all top notch in a thriller that builds with tension and really surprises!
The anamorphic transfer from Miramax is most exceptional and definitely enhances the visual flair that Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo (who also shot A Simple Plan), have provided the movie with. The image quality is clean and crisp, and the original selection of colors appear in astonishing form. Despite a hint or two of slight grain, this is a pretty much terrific presentation.
The 5.1 mix is thoroughly stunning. Though this is for the most part a dialogue driven piece, there are occasions where the sound is put to fantastic use, especially when incorporated into numerous flashback sequences. And the final half hour delivers countless suspense that the surround sound takes grand advantage of. Dialogue delivery and music playback both get top-notch treatment as well.
Featured on this disc is a commentary with writer/director Scott Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo, as well as two featurettes; “Sequencing The Lookout” and “Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt”.
The Lookout is a true cinematic masterpiece with the strongest mixture of top notch directing, writing and acting all rolled into role entertainment package. It’s truly one of 2007’s very best films, and deserves to be mentioned in the same league as other fantastic contemporary film noirs as Fargo and A Simple Plan.