The Lookout (2007)

Watched this on DVD on Saturday evening.

Thanks to the title, I was expecting a thriller about a bank heist. And when I read that the main character, Chris, was a janitor coping with recovering from a serious head trauma who happened to be working in the bank, I assumed that this film was something along he lines of the tricksy “The Score”, starring Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton – who plays a thief, posing as a janior with a serious learning disability.

But this film is entirely different.

For one thing, it’s not a heist film at all, but a slow, deep character drama based around Chris who is trying to rebuild his life after getting two of his friends killed in the same car crash that badly injured him. As Chris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quite brilliant – not relying on any of the hackneyed ways of indicating brain damage but being far more subtle. Just the way that he walks, or the slight delay in answering someone, or the brief but quickly covered look of confusion after someone speaks are very effective and feel completely genuine.

Left gullible by his head trauma, he gets into bad company – and drawninto a bank heist. I was expecting some kind of twist, but the film doesn’t betray its characters even once: they are exactly who they seem to be, and react exactly as they should, but they also surprise you by how much more they can do and achieve than you ever thought they would.

It reminded me, ever so slightly, of “No Country for Old Men” in its treatment of danger and violence – a sort of deadpan, unaccented realism quite unlike the super-stylised sort of violence we normally see. I’m told that the film is even more like “Fargo” from the same directors (Ethan and Joel Coen) but I haven’t seen that yet and can’t add my two cents.

Lacking the thrills, spills, twists and turns it’s going to be a bit of a disappointment for some, but if you go into this with the right expecations then you’ll get a lot out of it. It’s certainly a strong indie film with a lot to recommend it.

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