Review: The Lookout (2007)

The Lookout

The Lookout

Rating



Director

Scott Frank

Screenplay

Scott Frank

Length

99 min.

Starring

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill, Alberta Watson, Alex Borstein, Sergio Di Zio, David Huband

MPAA Rating

R (for language, some violence and sexual content)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Review

The screenwriter of Out of Sight has co-opted the director’s chair on his new thriller The Lookout.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, a young high school graduate whose memory has been almost irreparable damaged. We learn this from a tragic fatal accident that left he and his now-ex-girlfriend damaged and their best friends dead. Tortured by bits and snatches of these memories, Chris now attends classes on memory management and gets easily upset when he forgets something crucial.

Helping take care of him is his blind friend Lewis (Jeff Daniels) whose handicap is less visual and more verbal. Lewis says what’s on his mind, heedless of how others might perceive his words, hoping that being blind will allow him some leeway in the appropriateness department. Despite this, he cares deeply for Chris and wants to help him emerge from his disability and become a better functioning member of society.

Part of Chris’ goal is to become a bank teller. The bank at which he acts as a custodian doesn’t seem to want to give him a chance, but he practices and trains nonetheless. His hopes are nearly destroyed when a former high school classmate of his, Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), begins to play on Chris’ fragile mental state to have him help them rob his bank.

Scott Frank has reached universal acclaim on several occasions, most notably his crime capers Get Shorty and Out of Sight. His script for Minority Report so exceptionally tight that director Steven Spielberg couldn’t even tear it apart to create his typical absurd happy endings. The main plot device of The Lookout isn’t unique, though its specific cause may be. Memento played with the memory problems, but in an entirely different way. Here, Frank uses them not as a way to tell the story but as a character motivation. Chris understands his frailty all to well, which allows him to eventually recognize how others might abuse it.

It’s hard to imagine the lanky alien from 3rd Rock from the Sun making much of an impression on serious cinema, but Gordon-Levitt continues to prove that he has serious acting credentials. What might have been mishandled by other young actors, Gordon-Levitt deftly turns to his advantage and creates a thoroughly sympathetic character. Chris is ultimately stronger because of his disability and Gordon-Levitt makes the audience understand and believe that.

Gary is something of an anathema. While you know he’s going to betray Chris in the end, you can’t help but believe there’s a grain of actual concern in there. This is mostly do to a better-than-expected performance by Goode. While his henchmen are severely uni-dimensional, Goode manages to keep his character credible.

Frank doesn’t achieve much with his directorial style. There are very few exceptional shots and most of what he does simply serves the plot and doesn’t embellish it, which other directors might have had more success doing. The difference would be that most of those helmers might take away from the clever plotting.

The Lookout is a refreshing take on the heist genre, creating a story that you can actually enjoy without feeling like you’ve seen it a million times. There is more linking this film to successful thrillers of the past than to the edge-of-your-seat antics of the present.

Review Written

January 29, 2008

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