The Lookout

The Lookout (2007)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Goode, Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes

To most viewers – myself included – Joseph Gordon-Levitt immediately conjures up memories of teenage alien Tommy from "3rd Rock From The Sun." Seeing him star as the lead in this thriller that has universally received critical acclaim was intrigue enough for me to pop in this DVD from Buena Vista Home Entertainment when it arrived on my doorstep.

Directed and penned by "Minority Report" writer Scott Frank in his directorial debut, "the Lookout" tells the story of a shaken Chris Pratt. Pratt used to be the star of his high school ice hockey team. Adored by everyone he had a bright future ahead when one night during a joyride he crashes his car into a giant harvester killing two of his schoolmates, seriously injuring his girlfriend and almost killing himself. Four years later, Chris is still suffering from the effects of his brain damage. Violently short-tempered, unable to remember things, he is only a shadow of his once self. Going through therapy and re-schooling, and working a nighttime job as a janitor at a local bank, Chris becomes that target of a group of bank robbers. They take advantage of Chris' insecurities, his inability to properly decide what's right or wrong, and under the pretense of giving him a better life, they convince him to become the inside man on their planned bank heist. Step by step it dawns on Chris that something is wrong but when he tries to put a stop to it, it is already too late and he finds himself in the middle of a situation once again that determines people's lives and deaths.

Intriguing and fascinating the film deeply touches upon the sentiment of exploiting the weak. As a result the movie's villain, Gary Spargo, played by Matthew Goode, is all the more despicable. Jeff Daniels plays the part of Chris' blind room mate and his voice of reason, endlessly patient he has developed a sense for Chris' emotions and inner turmoil like no one else, and tries to keep him on the right track.
However wonderful the supporting cast is, the most impressive thing is Gordon-Levitt's portrayal of Chris Pratt. The maturity, the depth and the torment of his character is literally tangible as we stay with him during his troubled days and his troubled thoughts. Unable to reconcile with his past, he tries to make a better life for himself, to break his dependency on others, to leave it all behind and start over, and we sympathize with him on that level – though not with the means.

Apart from a great cast that makes an impact, "The Lookout" is also masterfully paced and told. While it isn't filled with plot twists and turns it works as a thriller because the viewer cares about the characters. We do not want to see Chris' life destroyed once again – especially not at the hands of a criminal like Spargo who cares about nothing but his own enrichment. The movie strikes the right balance between sadness and emotion, and violent action, making it an intense and entertaining experience throughout.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is presenting "The Lookout" in a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer on this DVD that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The image is absolutely clean and clear but reveals a tiny bit of grain in a number of shots. The level of detail is good but the somewhat dark cinematography with its deep blacks cloaks many details in shadow. By the same token it gives the picture striking visual depth and a somber note that so perfectly fits the premise. Black levels are solid and never break up and no edge-enhancement of compression artifacts are evident.

A 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track complements the release that is balanced and offers a wide dynamic range. Surround channels are engaged frequently to good effect but since this is a very character driven film, do not expect showcase-style effects but rather subtle ambient effects and a wide sound stage filled with music. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

As extras the disc includes a commentary track by writer/director Scott Frank and his director of photography, Alar Kivilo. Since the film has a very distinct look I found the inclusion of Alar in the track a great addition as the two discuss how they achieved the look and feel to underscore the emotional theme of the film. It is a great track that shows how well both of them know their métier.

You will also find two featurettes on the disc. The first is a general making-of segment that covers the production while the other one takes a closer look at the character of Chris Pratt and the brain damage he has suffered.

"The Lookout" is a great release and was a very pleasant surprise for me. Well acted, well written and masterfully put on the screen, it makes it clear that Scott Frank is a director to look out for in the future. Hopefully it will also open some more doors for Joseph Gordon-Levitt who shows that he has clearly outgrown his teenage sitcom upbringing and is ready for bigger and badder projects.

I was utterly intrigued by "The Lookout" and its unconventional – yet familiar – premise and I am sure you will, too. Check out this disc the next time you go shopping for DVDs.