July 23, 2010

Power Is Everything

Day 2 of the my JGL extravaganza focuses on another small, unnoticed film of his. This one came out in 2007, and ranked third on my list of best of the year. It's also one of his best performances, and that is definitely saying something.

Quick. You have ten seconds. Name as many movies as you possibly can that involve a bank robbery. Go ahead. Do it.
As you no doubt have just figured out, the list is pretty friggin' long! Bank robberies are one popular topic in film, so, you have to wonder, how does one make a heist film stand out among to pack? Well, for starters, one watches and observes everything that The Lookout does. This 2007 crime-thriller is a perfect example of how to make that tried and true concept fresh and exciting. Bolstered by incredibly strong performances and smart writing, The Lookout is one caper that deserves a spot on your shelf.

Ozymandias and Cobra Commander=A Match Made In Hell!

The Lookout concerns one Chris Pratt, a sad and guilt ridden young adult, struggling to cope with a life that was suddenly thrust on him. Four years perviously, Chris was a high school senior hotshot, a star hockey player, came from a privileged family, and was beloved by everyone around him. That all changed one night, when he and four friends are in a devastating car accident, which Chris himself unintentionally caused. Two of the friends are killed, and Chris is left severely brain damaged, prone to amnesia and likely to say whatever comes into his head, regardless of how rude it is. He now spends his days in a rehabilitation class instead of in the rink of a professional hockey stadium, and spends his nights cleaning the small bank on the edge of town instead of enjoying the lavish life of sports star. His family does their best to help him, but they don't understand what he is going through. The only source of light in Chris' life is Louis, his roommate, who, like Chris, is coping with a disability! Life is suddenly on the verge of changing, however, when Chris meets Gary Spargo, a dashing man, who convinces Chris that he can do much better than his current situation. Soon, Gary seduces Chris into playing a part in a little job. The job in question? Robbing the very same bank where Chris works. 

Think Memento mixed with any heist film, really, and you'll have a pretty good idea about what The Lookout is. It's not the most original of plots, and it is pretty predictable in the end, but how it gets there is really smart. Instead of focusing on the actual robbery for most of the film like most, The Lookout focuses solely on Pratt and his inner demons. The heist really only comes into play in the third act. The rest is spent getting to know Chris and sympathize with him so that we can understand where he is coming from when he makes the decision to help Gary. The way the plot unfolds feels very organic, and not once are we forced to accept some weird coincidence or occurrence that was thrown in for story's sake. It's damn impressive!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his streak of fantastic performances as Chris. This role is a lot angrier than most others that Gordon-Levitt has played. He has, almost always, played damaged men, but Chris Pratt is in a different league from the other ones. Not only is he physically damaged, but mentally, and psychologically damaged as well. Gordon-Levitt does a marvelous job juggling all this baggage, easily making Chris into a character we can empathize with. He brings such wonderful heart and sadness to the role, that, at some points, you feel his pain as if it were your own. There are some scenes here that are positively spine chilling, he is so good in them! JGL consistently impresses, but he takes it to a new level in this one. 

That's not to say that the supporting players are lost at sea, bereft by the powerful wind that is JGL's talent. No, no. They all show themselves to be fully capable here. Jeff Daniels is a delight as the sarcastic, but sweet Louis. I've always had an admiration for actors who play blind. I don't know why. i guess it's because they have the pesky job of convincing the audience that they actually can't see what is in front of their faces. Anyway, that sentiment holds true for Daniels. He is sometimes reduced to comic relief, but he counterbalances this with a good deal of seriousness and gravitas. Matthew Goode is damn convincing as Gary. His is a villain who could very easily find yourself liking, because Goode is so good at selling his sermon! All his talk about "getting your old life back", and "whoever has the money, has the power"... Hell, I was convinced. It's nice to see Goode in his early days before he blew up New York or romanced Colin Firth. And Isla Fisher proves that she's not just a pretty face with good comic timing as Luvlee (now that's a name). As the girl who is instrumental in reeling Chris into Gary's world, Fisher shows us that she is more then capable of handling dramatic stuff. Makes you wish she'd believe it herself, instead of staring in that Sex and the City knockoff, whatever that was called. 

The acting here is unanimously superb. JGL is clearly leading the pack, but, all the other performers can at least keep up with him. That rarely ever happens when we are dealing with the man, so, I think some congratulations are in order. Golf claps!

No. Seriously! She's really good!

The Lookout marks writer/director Scott Frank's first time behind the camera. Before this, he had already made a name for himself, having penned such films as Out of Sight and Minority Report. He shows that he is a forced to be reckoned with when he is given control of the camera and actors as well with this. Not only has he crafted a clever and emotionally devastating story, but he shows himself to be a damn fine character director. Most first time directors are fine with letting the performances slip a little bit, deciding instead to focus on a gimmick or some trick that they came up with to sell their movie. Frank didn't do that. The story he created was to small for something like that. He needed strong performances, and he sure as hell got them. He also does fine job with the cinematography and creating a feeling of depression in the world. This is a very gray movie, but it does a great job highlighting the turmoil that is ravaging Chris' brain. As a freshmen effort, The Lookout is about as a good a movie as Frank could have hoped to make. He has not sat in the chair since helming this film. I wish he would already. God knows what he has cooking up there. 

The Lookout came and went, largely unnoticed, back in 2007. It's a shame, because this a really excellent movie. It is nail bitingly tense one minute, and devastatingly heartbreaking the next. It stabs at you like few films do, but leaves you feeling something more then just entertained in the end. You feel elated. You feel stronger. You feel hopeful. How many movies can you name where you genuinely felt hopeful in the end? Top notch performances from everyone involved and some truly spectacular direction only add to it. Seriously! If you don't actively seek this one out, you're doing yourself a disservice. 


  1. I didn't like it all that much, I mean, I happened to be worn out by heist films after a TV marathon or something the last I saw it, so I should try it again...JGL is pretty fantastic, though.

  2. I sure loved this movie - and by the way, what does it mean when you say you are "Joseph Gordon-Levittsexual" in the sidebar?

  3. I didn't like it all that much, I mean, I happened to be worn out by heist films after a TV marathon or something the last I saw it, so I should try it again...JGL is pretty fantastic, though.