The directorial debut from director Scott Frank, "The Lookout" stars the underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Chris Pratt, a high school hockey player with a bright future. On prom night, he gets into what could be described as a visually stunning, but stupid accident when he turns off the lights of his car as he races through a rural road while what appear to be thousands of fireflies zip past, looking like low-hanging stars. Chris, however, didn't count on the giant tractor in the road when he flicked on the lights of the car again.
Years later, he has recovered somewhat, but still has problems, including memory concerns. He lives with an older, blind roomate named Lewis (Jeff Daniels) and works in a bank, occasionally seeing a councelor (Carla Gugino) in order to work through issues. Stopping off at the bar one night, he crosses paths with Gary (Matthew Goode), who claims to have known his sister. The two hit it off and Gary even hints that he could make things happen between Chris and a beautiful ex-stripper named Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher).
However, with benefits come a price: Gary wants Chris to help him and his gang to rob the bank where Chris works. However, when Gary turns the table, Chris realizes that he has the upper hand. Frank, as one might expect from the writer who adapted "Out of Sight" and "Get Shorty" has a way with crackling dialogue, but the other outstanding element of "The Lookout" is the atmosphere and feeling of dread, as Frank nails the oppressive chill of a small town in Winter extraordinarily well.
I think one of the better compliments that I can give the film is that it feels like a Coen Brothers film, yet it doesn't feel like a takeoff or rip of one. The film's coldly beautiful cinematography (shot on digital video) is courtesy of Alar Kivilo, who certainly knows his way around frosty small-town dramas: he also was the cinematographer on "The Ice Harvest" and "A Simple Plan".
Frank's debut also shows he certainly knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Gordon-Levitt (who was also wonderful in "Brick") may be widely known for his role on "Third Rock From the Sun", but he's marvelous as a troubled teen struggling to get over a tragedy who finds himself thrown into a situation where he's in over his head - at first. Goode, who was underwhelming in "Imagine Me and You" and "Chasing Liberty", is enjoyably creepy and a bit deranged as Gary. Fisher and Bridges are also very good in supporting efforts, although Fisher's character mysteriously vanishes without any explanation.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent film, with stellar performances, a gorgeous look and feel, as well as a terrific script. Frank's directorial debut is a very enjoyable drama/thriller that certainly suggests more promising directorial efforts yet to come.
VIDEO: "The Lookout" is presented by Miramax Films in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality - the film was shot with Panavision Genesis digital cameras - is excellent. Sharpness and detail are terrific throughout the show, as fine details are often clearly visible, despite many scenes with rather dim lighting. Some slight traces of artifacting are spotted, but the presentation otherwise looked crisp and clear. Colors were generally subdued, but richer colors showed through well at times, too.
SOUND: "The Lookout" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While a few intense scenes in the second half do have the surrounds kicking in, the majority of the film is dialogue-driven. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue, some nice, clean-sounding ambience and punchy effects.
EXTRAS: Director Scott Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo offer an audio commentary for the film. We also get the "Sequencing the Lookout" and "Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt" featurettes.
Final Thoughts: Frank's directorial debut is a very enjoyable drama/thriller that certainly suggests more promising directorial efforts yet to come. "The Lookout" stands as one of the best films I've seen this year. The DVD offers excellent video quality, fine audio and a nice selection of supplements. Recommended.
The Film A-