Why is there a blind guy in “The Lookout”?

Golden Mug

Best Picture
Original Screenplay (Scott Frank)
Supporting Actor (Matthew Goode)
Score (James Newton Howard)

Theatrical Release Date: 03/30/2007
Director: Scott Frank
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Goode, Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher

Much like the protagonist in “The Lookout”, I had trouble sequencing my approach to this review. I actually wrote the last two paragraphs first.

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I’ve moved them to the appropriate locations and now I can begin the review where I should … at the beginning.

“The Lookout” is about a young man (Gordon-Levitt) who has lost the ability to keep short-term memory in the right order, readily confusing the middle of a story for the end and the end for the beginning.

I know many of you may be saying “Memento, what?” and that’s a valid first assumption.

But don’t let that deter you. This film isn’t just some knock off.

Let’s start at the acting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has quickly risen to the top of young actors working today.

With a gut-wrenching and powerful performance in “Mysterious Skin” and other excellent performances in “Brick” and “Manic”, he has shown that he can cast aside the goody-two shoes image he gained with “Third Rock from the Sun” and “10 Things I Hate About You”.

In “The Lookout”, he again exudes a marvelous capacity to be forceful while still showing extreme vulnerability and kindness.

However, rarely does one person a film make and thankfully the other actors are equally up to the task.

Of course, there’s the brilliant Jeff Daniels; who has shown versatility throughout his career with such films as “Dumb and Dumber”, “Imaginary Heroes” and “Pleasantville”. Playing a blind mentor figure to Gordon-Levitt, he again hits his mark.

To no lesser degree, Matthew Goode does a great job of being the villain. I would almost give him the utmost of compliments and call his performance “Oldmandian”, in reference to Gary Oldman, but that’s a bit much. What I mean is that I completely didn’t recognize him in this film.

I know Matthew Goode from “Match Point” and “Chasing Liberty”. He plays kind, nice men in those films and to top it all off, he’s British. There is no trace of English heritage in this role and kudos to Goode for disappearing into his slimy character so well.

I also want to acknowledge Isla Fisher for her role in the film. While not a large role, she uses her time onscreen beautifully (in more ways than one) and is probably the closest thing to the “heart” of the film. Her performance is sweet in just the right way to work within the context of the story and all I can say is that Sacha Baron Cohen is one lucky man.

Acting aside, the story is compelling and, while not too difficult to figure out, a great ride and journey for the audience. The film managers to combine drama with thriller in such a seamless way as to elevate itself above so many others of its ilk.

The setting in rural Kansas is an evocative landscape, its stark and barren nature mirroring the damaged mind of Gordon-Levitt’s character beautifully.

Writer/Director Scott Frank, in his directorial debut, shows that he is every bit as good a director as a writer (having adapted two Elmore Leonard novels for the screen – “Out of Sight” and “Get Shorty”).

I think some directors may have been tempted to keep adding to the film, to explain things for the audience and to see just how many twists and turns they could weave.

Frank correctly keeps the explanations to a minimum, trusting the audience to put two and two together and maximizing the twists and turns effectiveness without being too clever.

All of that adds up to a 4 out of 5. The acting is superb and the story moves with efficiency and intelligence.

Although “The Lookout” may seem to be a quasi-clone of “Memento”, don’t let the loose premise connection fool you; this is a film worth your time and money. The visceral event that is “300” aside, this is the best film of the year so far.