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Miramax Pictures presents
"Once upon a time, I woke up."
DVD ReviewChris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of those handsome jocks in high school who walks on air and draws many other teens to him. Scoring the big goal at the hockey game and dating the super-attractive girl, the world is at his feet. But all it takes is one bad decision to wrench almost everything away from him. After a tragic crash while horsing around on prom night, Chris suffers a serious brain injury that makes even the most common activities difficult. Waking up each morning, he must write down simple tasks like “take a shower with soap” to remember them. His past glory is just a painful memory tinged with serious regret. Every day is a struggle and brings increasing frustration with few rewards. Chris lumbers through daily life and searches for any way to regain his lost vitality.
The Lookout is the directorial debut of the talented writer Scott Frank, who has penned such memorable pictures as Out of Sight and Minority Report. His past films have included thrilling sequences, but they rarely sacrifice personality for pure action. This exciting tale is no exception and deftly balances a bank heist with intense focus on the main characters. Chris lives with Lewis (Jeff Daniels)—a quirky blind man who’s much more in tune with life and accepts his situation. They form an unlikely pair of souls who need the other to make dinner and get through each day. Jeff Daniels is very sharp and brings tremendous depth to a possibly one-note character. Although he is blind, Lewis sees more than any of the people who actually look upon the world. Chris doesn’t appear to care much for Lewis, but living with him is much better than returning to his cringe-worthy family. His parents (Bruce McGill and Alberta Watson) try to be caring, but they remain disappointed in his current state and aren’t sure how to handle it. A key dinner sequence is especially awkward and perfectly shows the lack of true support from the family.
While Chris’ struggles are difficult, this is far from a dreary picture. Instead, the smart pacing and inventive direction lead to an often-riveting experience. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s understated persona is a great choice for Chris and helps to make him a likable character. He’s not a perfect guy and tries to do the right thing, but his slower mental state makes him more gullible. This condition draws the attention of Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), a smart, personable guy who knows what to say to attract his prey. He employs the attractive Luvlee (Isla Fisher) to seduce Chris, and the trap is set. Goode (Match Point) is a star in the making and appears destined to become a major actor. While Gary draws Chris into his web of crime, a tense feeling of dread becomes to grow. Thankfully, Frank avoids the sad indie trend of focusing too much on the characters’ troubles. Instead, we become invested in Chris’ daily struggle but enjoy the journey to the final conflict.
The Lookout is not a groundbreaking film that will stay with you for ages, but it does provide an engaging human story. When the bank heist predictably goes bad, we’re actively hoping for the leads’ survival. Frank crafts an enjoyable yarn that never betrays its characters with unkind twists. The story takes place in a small town outside Kansas City, but it could work almost anywhere. Shooting in Canada’s Manitoba province, director of photography Alar Kivilo uses the spare landscape to highlight the dramatic tension. The snow-packed grounds form the perfect backdrop to Chris’ struggles and make the situation even tougher. There are few sunny shots in this picture, but it contains some remarkable cinematography through unique set-ups. Great performances from the entire cast complement the fine camera work, and the sharp pacing heightens our interest. The deliberate tone might not strike a chord with everyone, but it should make believers out of viewers willing to take the ride.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The Lookout includes numerous memorable visuals, and this release's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents them impressively. This picture was shot on digital video, which makes the lack of grain on the images even more surprising. The darker scenes contain a few minor defects, but they remain strong throughout the feature.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: This release includes a solid 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that presents the tense moments effectively. It's not as strong as the picture quality, but still offers a worthwhile experience. The audio moves well throughout the front of the sound field and uses the rear speakers intermittently. The understated dialogue is easily understandable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Becoming Jane, Eagle vs. Shark, The Invisible, Renaissance, NeverWas, The Hoax, Our Very Own
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director/Writer Scott Frank and Director of Photography Alar Kivito
Packaging: unknown keepcase
Extras Review: The Lookout includes a solid collection of extras that offer some good insight into the production. Writer/director Scott Frank and director of photography Alar Kivito provide loads of technical material about each scene. Viewers interested in how films are made should enjoy their commentary, while others looking for a more entertaining conversation might be disappointed. If you fall into this category, you might be better served watching Sequencing the Lookout. This 20-minute documentary covers each aspect of the film, starting with the origins of the script. We also hear about the casting, production design, and some unique aspects of the film. One interesting segment covers Jeff Daniels playing a blind man, which was not an easy task. The other extra is The Mind of Chris Pratt—a nine-minute look at Joseph-Gordon Levitt's approach to the character. The intelligent actor discusses his extensive preparation, and we hear from Frank and Daniels about his strong work.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsThe Lookout has received high praise from major critics like Richard Roeper, who labeled it a "masterpiece." But its flawed marketing campaign suggests a more straightforward crime thriller. This compelling picture offers more subtle drama and delivers more than just cheap thrills. Scott Frank succeeds in crafting sharp, memorable characters, earning the DVD a strong recommendation.
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