Saturday, August 2, 2008

#35: The Lookout


The Lookout
Directed by Scott Frank
Written by Scott Frank
Released March 30, 2007

My next stop on the Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the star of the previously-viewed Brick) takes me to 2007's The Lookout, a different kind of heist film written and directed by Scott Frank, who previously penned the screenplays for two superb and supremely underrated favorites of mine: Get Shorty and Out of Sight (both based on novels by Elmore Leonard).

I say it's a "different kind of heist film" because the heist is almost a bit of a MacGuffin (a plot device that advances the story but whose details are of little concern. . . the Shankara stones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are a good example of this idea). No, The Lookout is more of a character study and a drama with a heist skillfully weaved within.

Gordon-Levitt is 2 for 2 on this blog, turning in a nuanced and subtly moving performance as Chris Pratt, a one-time high school hockey star who one night makes a stupid, tragic mistake that leaves him with permanent brain damage. Pratt, having accidentally killed two of his passengers, including his best friend, and disfigured his girlfriend, spends his days a shell of his former shelf, slowly learning how to do the simplest of tasks like piecing together and documenting his memories from a single day.

Pratt's condition, in addition to his job as the night cleaning man at a small town bank, makes him a prime mark to a crew of men planning the aforementioned bank heist. Playing on Pratt's memories of his past, and using a beautiful woman to lure him in, the crew seduces Pratt into joining them.

The Lookout is well crafted, well written and well acted (Jeff Daniels steals his scenes as Pratt's blind roommate), and contains only one major flaw: predictability. The odd thing is, it doesn't really matter here. Predictable doesn't mean formulaic in this case. With Gordon-Levitt playing the kind of character who needs to write down his every move in a notebook he carries with him at all times, it's not surprising to find yourself a few steps ahead of him at every turn. The suspense comes in hoping that Pratt can catch up with you before someone else catches up with him.

For writer/director Frank, The Lookout is a masterfully low key first effort.

For more on The Lookout:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia
- Order the DVD from the official movie site. Plus, check out behind the scenes clips and an 8 minute chunk of the movie.

The official trailer at YouTube (a high res version is available at the official site):

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