Lookout (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Miramax/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (1st October 2007).
The Film

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's a shame how some good films fade away while other not-so-great films end up making tons of cash at the box office. Big budget studio pictures will always have the upper hand in the crazy marketplace because of their over-inflated advertising budgets and the fact that there are 4 to 6 times as many prints available for screenings than an independent picture, meaning they can exhibit their films on thousands of screens while a smaller picture would be lucky to get a hundred (to put it into perspective the recently released "Eagle Vs. Shark" (2007) also a Buena Vista film through Miramax premiered on 2 screens nation-side, while a movie like "Transformers" (2007) debuted on 4,011 screens leading up to 4,050 screens the following week). "The Lookout" was reasonably released in theaters back in March, I say reasonably because it didn't really have to contend with massive summer blockbusters like "Eagle Vs. Shark" had to, but regardless it still didn't make enough scratch to break even. Hopefully the DVD and Blu-ray release of this film will pick up additional coin and earn a few more fans as it's probably one of the best films I've seen this year.
"The Lookout" tells the story of Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Pratt had a bright future ahead of himself, he was a star player on his high school hockey team, he was admired and respected by his peers and had a smoking hot girlfriend. But on one fateful night all of that would change as he's involved in a terrible car accident that leaves two of his friends dead, his girlfriend will loose a leg and he'll suffer from a traumatic frontal lobe head injury. His injury prevents from being able to perform many tasks and he requires the use of lists and routine in order to remember how to do basic things. Trying to move on from the pain of losing everything Chris lives with a blind friend Lewis (Jeff Daniels) and works a night shift at the local bank as a janitor. After work one night he meets Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), a fellow student at the same school he once attended (only a few years older), Gray quickly becomes friends with Chris, despite a sense of caution his true motivations become clear, he and a group of friends plan on robbing a bank. More specifically the very bank that Chris works at and they need his help to pull it off. Promising Chris an opportunity to better his life but things don't go according to plan.
On the outside "The Lookout" may seem like another in a line of predictable heist films, but that's not the case. The film's script approaches the subject from a character perspective, the robbery is almost secondary. Writer and director Scott Frank brilliantly weaves an engaging story that has you focused more on the characters and dialogue than the thrill of robbing a bank. To begin with we have Chris Pratt, a now fragile person that has lost almost everything and the only decent thing he has in his life is his blind best friend Lewis. The story takes it's time unfolding the essence of the characters and more importantly allows them to fully develop. By the first hour of the film each character is totally realized, in fact the actual heist doesn't take place until the final act of the film, which is also tense and leaves the viewer feeling very uneasy, from that point on the film's final act basically explodes as Chris tries to turn the balance of power in what becomes one of the most satisfying endings to a heist film I've seen in years. I also loved the fact that Frank scripts scenes that are not only interesting to watch from an outsider perspective but are also engaging, you can watch this film several times and find something new amid the writing and performances.
Speaking of which, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is etching out quite the resume of late, appearing in and delivering wonderful performances in "Mysterious Skin" (2004) and "Brick" (2005) and his turn as Chris Pratt is yet another in a line of impressive work. He manages to capture the tragedy of the situation beautifully and creates a sympathetic character that also has flaws beyond the injury. Equally impressive is British actor Matthew Goode, who played the charming well-to-do Tom Hewett in Woody Allen's "Match Point" (2005) playing totally against type as the dodgy Gary Spargo, Goode manages a kinetic performance as the manipulative ex-con. His range from friendly bar buddy to a driven crook is brilliant and believable. Rounding out the excellent cast is veteran and once-upon-a-time funny man Jeff Daniels, coming off of his stupendous achievement in "The Squid and the Whale" (2005), still sporting the beard from that film Daniels makes you believe he's been blind all his life as the supportive Lewis, a feat that probably hasn't been equaled since Al Pacino won the Oscar for his famous portrayal as Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in "Scent of a Woman" (1992).
There are plenty of reasons why you should check this film out, the script is excellent, the performances are natural, real and brilliant, the direction, tone and style of the film works and delivers right to the end, I could go on and on but the bottom line is that "The Lookout" is a phenomenal character-driven heist film that stands as one of the year's best films and it's highly recommended to give this disc a spin.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1, this widescreen transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The result is another top notch effort from Buena Vista, the image is crisp and clean with sharpness that impresses throughout each frame of this film. Fine detail is beautifully rendered; furthermore colors are accurate and hold well in both light and dark scenarios. Skin tones are natural and black levels are deep and bold with shadow detail appearing consistently good and holding up well throughout the transfer. Some very mild grain appears throughout the film, mainly in darker dimly lit scenes but this is never an annoyance. Overall it's another pristine transfer that will please high-def fans.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English uncompressed PCM 5.1 transferred at 6.9 Mbps (48 kHz / 24-bit) as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks in both English and French. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its PCM track and much like the image quality the sound delivers in spades. With dialogue presented cleanly and without distortion, but the real meat of this track is in its ambient mix which provides an immersive quality. The impact isn't as dynamic as an aggressive action mix and the standard Dolby Digital track proves that point, the PCM track is better with an overall robust feeling to the entire mix. Every aspect is stepped up in this track making for a well balanced and effective sound mix.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has released this film with a few extras that include an audio commentary, two featurettes and a series of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director Scott Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo. The two comment on the difficulty in shooting in the freezing environment of Winnipeg, Canada, the cinematographer talks about the challenge in placing lights on the flat landscape of the area and essentially not being able to hide them. The two reveal trivia from the production and also now scenes where shot and the techniques used to make the film on a small budget. There's a lot of talk about the limitations of the budget and not being able to shoot the coverage needed and the director comments on a few of the things that still bother him and they were unable to achieve for various reasons (primarily time and money). Narrative issues, performance and cast and also production design are covered throughout the track in what is actually a very worth listen for fans of the film.

Next up is "Sequencing the Lookout", a featurette which runs for 19 minutes 58 seconds, this clip examines the story and scrip and getting it developed, financed and produced. It was a film that almost got made several times over the course of a decade and also looks at the cast and the shooting in Canada. It seems like an EPK clip but doesn't feature the usual back-patting seen in many EPKs these days so it's actually not nauseating to watch.

Following that is the second featurette entitled "Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt" which runs for 9 minutes 26 seconds, this clip takes a look at the character of Chris Pratt and his brain injury as well as the approach that Joseph Gordon-Levitt took in playing the character, the research and the time spent creating the character over the course of 11 months.

Also on the disc are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "The Hoax" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "The Invisible" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "Wild Hogs" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.

Finally this first disc also includes a "Movie Showcase" which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A

 


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