The Lookout is one of those rare movies where you’re going to see a DVD review from the same person who did the theatrical review. While we like to spread opinions around here and make sure everyone gets a turn, about once a year you find a movie that causes the upper members of the staff to pull rank and review twice, typically because a screener copy is involved. The Lookout is that movie for 2007, which right there should tell you how highly we think of this film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves just how far he has come from “3rd Rock from the Sun” with his performance as Chris Pratt. A high-school hero for his hockey skills, Chris is in a horrible accident causing the deaths of two of the riders. While Chris lives, he is affected by a form of mental trauma that makes it hard for him to think. He has problems sequencing events and complex thoughts just make him angry. He keeps a list of reminders in a notepad he carries around, and just does his best to try and get through the day.
Fortunately Chris’s family is rich, so they take care of his bills, but he still tries to live a normal existence with school and a job as a janitor at a small town bank, and even attempts picking up the random girl at a bar now and then. But Chris’s life has definitely changed, something Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) tries to play off of. Gary also attended Chris’s high school and he tries to remind Chris of his glory days in an attempt to rile him up so he will help Gary’s gang rob the bank Chris work’s at, serving as the lookout for the robbery.
One of the things that makes The Lookout really appealing to me is the different levels it works on. Even on a surface level the story is part heist-flick, part drama, and even a little part action movie. Dive deeper and there is a lot to examine about these characters, something the movie does incredibly well. For instance, I wrote my initial review looking at how Chris, and more importantly his disability, is treated by the various people around him. Those who want to take advantage of Chris define him by his mental trauma, while others, including himself, view Chris as a whole person. However, that concept-of-self isn’t the only thing to look at either. There’s a lot in the movie about carrying one’s transgressions and forgiveness; two things Chris Pratt has a lot of problems dealing with.
Regardless of the thematic you choose to look at of the movie, however, I would be remiss in any review of The Lookout for not mentioning just how brilliant Jeff Daniels is as Chris’s roommate Louis, who is blind. Blind can be a tricky thing to play in movies, but Daniels not only pulls it off with complete believability, but he manages to steal scenes in such a way that you can’t believe this is the same guy who did Dumb and Dumber. Almost guaranteed to be forgotten at awards time, Daniels easily puts forth one of this year’s strongest supporting performances, as a character who is blind, as a sometimes-conscience to a character who is mentally challenged, and as some of the movie’s appropriately flavored comedic relief.
A hidden treasure thus far this year, The Lookout is a solid movie that’s worth uncovering if you have yet to see it. I have yet to meet anyone who had anything but the highest praise for the movie, the direction, and the performances – a rarity in critic cultures. Forget Daniels’ turn in Dumb and Dumber and give Gordon-Levitt a break for doing “3rd Rock.” Give one of the best movies of 2007 your time and check out The Lookout.
Not surprising considering the low profile The Lookout has maintained, the DVD release from Miramax holds very little in the way of bonus materials. Two small featurettes and a commentary are all you’ll find on this disc other than trailers for other Miramax releases and, while they satisfy what they set out to communicate, no doubt you’ll be left wanting just a little bit more.
The first of the featurettes, “Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt” is a deeper look than audience members typically get at actors building a character. To truly transform yourself into a character in a convincing manner, actors will know things about the character that never show up on screen. Such is the case with Chris Pratt. Joseph Gordon-Levitt discusses his take on the character, decisions he made in playing the role, and how easily it could have been to take the character too far. Writer/director Scott Frank and Jeff Daniels chime in on the character as well, but it’s Gordon-Levitt’s insight that makes this featurette worthwhile.
“Sequencing The Lookout” is a pretty straightforward making-of featurette for the film, documenting how and why the movie got made the way it did. Frank talks about taking on directorial duties for the first time because nobody else would make his movie, Gordon-Levitt talks about his character, etc. Yes, the character discussion of Chris Pratt is a little redundant, and I think they may have used some of the same material, but it’s still an interesting thing to watch. Nevertheless, it is a straightforward making-of, so nothing terribly notable is to be found.
The commentary for the movie, provided by Scott Frank and director of photography Alar Kivilo, is one of those commentaries I found myself drawn into. Typically I put on a commentary and let it play until I feel like I’ve gotten a flavor for it, but this one kept me paying attention until the end credits. Frank is incredibly… well, frank about his directorial debut, pointing out his own shortcomings and talking about things he really wanted to do but ran out of time for due to the movie’s hectic shooting schedule. He discusses responses from test audiences that raised questions he didn’t think would be raised and makes sure the commentary provides the answers the movie itself apparently didn’t (although in Frank’s defense, I thought the film filled in the gaps pretty well too). He even points out things I never would have noticed. On one hand it’s admirable to see a director speak so openly about his movie. On the other hand, I felt The Lookout was pretty close to perfect as a movie, only to have some of its flaws presented via the commentary track.
Unfortunately, this is a case where you’re going to have to enjoy The Lookout for the brilliant cinematic picture it is, because the supplemental material on the disc doesn’t scream out, “buy me!” Thankfully, the movie alone is worth picking up this release, but you’ll probably want to stay away from the commentary unless you want to hear the film picked apart.