2007 - United States - 99 minutes
Writer and Director - Scott Frank
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
The Lookout gives us an acting tour de force by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who came to fame as the alien teenager in the popular television series Third Rock from the Sun. It was always pretty clear that he is a very good actor, but the silly roll on the television never gave him the opportunity to express the depths of emotions exhibited in The Lookout.
In this film, he plays a young man who had it all. He was an excellent student and an accomplished hockey player on his high school team. His parents are wealthy, his girlfriend is beautiful, and his life is set to be something special. All this comes to an end in a car crash that kills his best friend and the girl he is dating, inflicts grievous injury upon his girlfriend, and causes him severe brain trauma.
After the crash scene, the movie skips a few years, and we find Levitt's character, Chris, sharing a small apartment with Lewis. Lewis - expertly played by Jeff Daniels - was once a wild druggie who was blinded in an accident. So we have Chris - the former rich, golden boy - and Lewis - the former low life from the wrong side of the tracks - making their way together. Chris has memory problems and must write everything down. There are signs all over the apartment that remind Chris what needs to be done. Chris works at night and Lewis during the day. The older, more stable Lewis runs the household and does all of the cooking. Each morning, when Chris arrives home from work, waiting for him is his meal prepared and laid out by Lewis.
Chris is working on sequence in his writing/therapy class and is unable to relate events, such as what he did yesterday. He always gets stuck on the first event and cannot progress from there. Lewis wisely suggests that he start at the end and work backwards - a logical move for someone with memory problems. We find later in the film that this suggestion is critical to Chris's survival.
Chris works as the night custodian in a bank located in a small town outside the city. He has dreams of becoming a teller at the bank and is being guided by the kindhearted head teller. However, the bank manager is not confident of his success causing Chris to become more and more discouraged with his situation. This sets the stage for a slick talking former classmate of Chris to move in and convince Chris to help in the robbery of the bank.
As the former classmate exercises more and more influence over Chris, the film skillfully shifts from drama to thriller and proceeds to an exciting climax. Some of the events occurring in the climax are improbable, but not too much so as to destroy the strong fabric of the film.
The subject of the film is timely considering the number of soldiers who are returning from war with permanent damage to their brains. Even though the damage suffered by Chris is far less severe than many of those service people, the film gives us a little insight into the very hard road for so many of those young men and women. Gordon-Levitt states in an interview that he worked with victims of brain damage in order to try to portray the condition as accurately as possible within the bounds of the script, and he certainly does an excellent job.
Except for the few improbable events toward the end of the film, The Lookout is an exciting thriller with a great heart presented to us with superior acting and directing.
August 28, 2007