Feb 18, 2011

[Movies] The Lookout (2007)

The Lookout (2007)If you try to plot the film career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I think you'll find yourself feeling the same sense of surprise that I did in terms of how much he's grown over the year. We often joke about how child actors tend to bomb out and end up with lousy acting careers as adults or on the flip side get stuck in typecast niches that they never get to escape from. But he didn't suffer that fate through a combination of good offers and clearly a conscious choice to pick better roles for himself.

And he's certainly been rewarded for his efforts in serious dramatic pieces like Brick given his recent appearances in recent blockbuster films like (500) Days of Summer and Inception. And in both cases he performed remarkably well in two very different movie genres. Thus his range as an actor clearly continues to grow and will hopefully continue to open new doors for this young actor.

Ironically enough though, I only got into watching this movie because of another actors I enjoy following despite his lack of great roles, Matthew Goode. I had first encountered him in Imagine Me & You and only saw him again in Watchmen, where he wasn't all that great. So far it seems that it's really his abilities as a charming romantic lead that I tend to enjoy more than his gritty serious stuff, although this movie wasn't too bad for him.

The Lookout is a 2007 crime drama written and directed by Scott Frank. His past works include the screenplays for Out of Sight and Get Shorty.

Our protagonist of sorts is Chris Platt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young man whose prospects in life are pretty much thrown away after a car accident he caused. The accident caused brain damage of some sort, crippled his then girlfriend Kelly (Laura Vandervoort) and killed two other friends who were in the car as well. Now he lives with his blind friend Lewis (Jeff Daniels) while working as a night janitor at a local bank despite the fact that he comes from a wealthy family.

He eventually meets Gary (Matthew Goode) in a bar who befriends him. This is eventually followed with Chris meeting Luvlee (Isla Fisher), who very quickly warms up to Chris against all reason. But all is revealed when it turns out that Gary is part of a gang who mean to rob the bank where Chris works and he's quickly becoming more and more of an accomplish. Thus Chris is left to figure out whether or not he should help Gary and his group despite the fact that the bank has done little to support his limited career growth options and the general complications of his life after the accident.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the promotion event of...Image via WikipediaNow start off with a character with brain damage and inevitable images of movies like I Am Sam immediately come to mind. And I was worried that JGL would end up fulfilling this particular role in that manner, which is probably the established or mayhap "easier" way of doing this. But thankfully he didn't and his character was well-written in that regard. Sure, the nature of his strange mental deficiencies probably doesn't clearly match any documented syndrome perfectly, but that doesn't matter in a movie. Instead, we got a form of amnesia that sufficiently challenges the protagonist in a unique and interesting way.

Matthew Goode's role as the opportunistic bank robber wasn't all too clear to me. Sure, he had his slightly fun charming buddy-buddy scenes in the beginning but beyond that it wasn't very clear how pivotal a role he'd play in the heist. You'd think he was supposed to be the "brains" of the operation or something, but that didn't come across well. I'm not sure if that's a flaw in how that character was written or a consequence of how the story is really told from the perspective of Chris and thus we don't see enough of the bank robbery stuff.

The use of repetition and other memes really helped give the movie a particular tone that reminded us of the brain damage aspect of things without necessarily cheapening it. And it's both interesting and at times creepy how his daily routine evolved from the simple process of waking up and taking a shower to waking up, discussing the plans of the bank heist and acquiring all the things they needed to pull things off. But the ending arc where Chris uses his unique way of putting things together in his head results in a chilling and at the same time amazing resolution to the whole movie.

I was also surprised that having Jeff Daniels as the blind friend Lewis didn't turn into a obviously opportunity for the cliche mentor character. Instead we have someone with a different kind of disability who only really dreams of putting up a restaurant and having a better future together with Chris. And his portrayal of a blind man was also nicely understand given they avoided having him move around too much. So we didn't get any silly Stevie Wonder moments or instances of him pretending to navigate blindly despite really being able to see. And special kudos for that one line of us during the big climax of the movie - and no, I won't spoil it for you.

In the end, I was really impressed with how this movie turned out and major kudos to Joseph for really carrying the film, as was required of the role. It wasn't an easy performance to be sure and thus the resulting impact at the end speaks volumes of his growth as an actor.

The Lookout is more than your typical crime drama and not one that gives into stereotypes around people with disabilities as they appear on film. It gets 4 quick notes Chris jots down to keep track of things out of a possible 5.

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