Directed by Scott Frank
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p-AVC
Running Time: 99 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: EHD, Spanish, French
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Review Date: August 16, 2007
One of the most wonderful things about moviegoing (and movie reviewing) happens when one stumbles across a film that hasn’t been hyped to the skies, doesn’t have big name stars, and yet hooks you from the beginning so that you’re willing to go anywhere the writer and director and actors want to take you. Scott Frank’s The Lookout is one such movie. I knew nothing about it before I began watching the film, and yet I was completely under its spell for the entire running time. It’s a heist film but with some refreshing touches and a central, very appealing character.
Former golden boy Chris Pratt’s life does a complete turnaround when he’s the victim of a horrendous crash which leaves him with moderate brain damage. Functional but operating under some handicaps he can’t seem to conquer, Chris works as the night janitor at a bank in Noel, Kansas. Over the course of a few days, he’s shrewdly manipulated into aiding a group of thieves into pulling off a major bank heist. Knowing that it’s wrong but thinking this caper might mark a change in his life’s fortunes, Chris finds himself wrestling with his conscience against his need for control which a share of the money might possibly give him. One can’t help rooting for Chris to see what’s happening and to make the right decisions, but even doing that will have severe consequences that he’ll have to face, dealing with all of this through impaired brain functions which hamper his ability to be on top of his game.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Chris, and it’s a high point in an already fascinating career for this young actor. The mental impairment his character faces is manifested beautifully in both physical and vocal ways being completely believable and aiding greatly in the audience’s ability to sympathize with him. Jeff Daniels plays a blind middle aged hippie who shares lodgings with Chris, each man helping the other cope with the bumps that life manages to put in their way. Matthew Goode makes a great, sleazy con man who enlists Chris’ help by the use of former stripper Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher) whom Goode directs to seduce Chris into joining their little band of bandits. Sergio Di Zio as a friendly cop, Bruce McGill as Chris’ crusty father, and Carla Gugino as Chris’ case worker also make strong impressions.
Scott Frank has written about the underbelly of everyday life before in such films as Out of Sight and Get Shorty and he’s played mind-twisting games in thrillers such as Dead Again, Malice, and Minority Report, but here he’s also getting to direct his own script, and for a debut effort, it’s glorious work. There are hauntingly beautiful scenes that lead to the horrific crash early in the film (a crash we relive a time or two later complete with gruesome sound and visual effects). He keeps the camera close so we can see the effort it takes Chris to do simple things like shaving or opening cans of food. The heist sequence and its aftermath are directed with a riveting style, and the film’s last quarter hour is in many ways heart-stopping.
Shot with Panavision’s Genesis HD video camera rather than on film, the 2.40:1 1080p transfer (AVC-CODEC) has no blemishes at all. The color scheme is subdued for the movie, so colors don’t pop at all (the cinematographer also shot The Ice Storm in a similar way). The image is razor sharp, and blacks are solid though shadow detail is not especially striking. As the main story occurs during the winter, the whites from snow do not bloom. There is also no edge enhancement to mar the transfer. Small object detail varies during the presentation. In some cases, fabrics and patterns are vivid and lifelike while at other times, there seems to be smearing. Overall, it's an outstanding high definition transfer but not reference quality. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 soundtrack is a clear, open, and vibrant effort that uses the rear channels most effectively during the flashback sequences (the wreck, a hockey game). At other times, the sound design for the film is underwhelming not getting the full use of the surrounds with music and ambient sounds. A good effort here but not great.
Writer-director Scott Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo provide a running commentary that is mostly based on the location scouting and shooting of the film in Winnipeg (though some anecdotes about the actors do enter into the discussion from time to time). The two men have an easy camaraderie that makes the listening experience a pleasure, and their down-to-earth and honest comments about their mistakes and triumphs in the lensing of the film hold one’s attention.
“Sequencing The Lookout” is an effective making-of featurette with Scott Frank and several from the cast offering background and opinions on the film’s production. One valuable quality of this documentary is that we get to hear the natural speaking voices of several in the cast who do superb jobs of disguising their nationalities with accurate American accents in the actual film. This 20–minute featurette has been divided into five chapters but disappointingly is presented in 480i.
“Behind the Mask of Chris Pratt” allows star Joseph Gordon-Levitt to discuss his preparation for the difficult assignment of portraying a brain damaged individual. This featurette runs around 6½ minutes and is presented in 480i.
The three Buena Vista/Miramax trailers presented in 1080i include The Hoax, The Invisible, and Wild Hogs.
As usual with Buena Vista/Miramax releases, the Blu-ray disc also offers the Movie Showcase feature which presents three reference quality scenes from the film for viewer selection.
In much the same way as Memento presented a main character coping difficultly with the frustrating life that fate has handed him, so too does The Lookout bristle with a moody tale which completely grips the viewer. If you’re up for a serious character study reflected through a compelling crime drama, The Lookout is a movie that I can heartily recommend, and the Blu-ray version is a sharper, better delineated reproduction of this fine achievement than the standard definition DVD.