Instead of diving in to the eventual bank robbery, The Lookout spends 40 minutes building its characters before the idea of a heist is brought into the script. Headed by a flawless performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Lookout is a gripping character study with numerous angles and styles that could have settled to be a generic genre movie.
Jeff Daniels takes on a wonderful supporting role as a blind man in perfect sync with Levitt, whose own medical condition causes mental lapses. His need to write everything down to remember what he’s done and needs to do is perfectly inserted into the script. While the extended character development may seem unnecessary, the writing ensures many of the details given to the audience through basic conversation plays a role during the finale.
The plot doesn’t twist or deliver surprises. That’s not its purpose. Watching Levitt deal with his condition while maintaining a normal life (along with handling the consequences that brought him to the situation) is fantastic cinema by itself. The Lookout doesn’t even need the bank robbery to work. The dramatic elements and Daniels’ oddball, funny style gels into an entertaining piece of film by themselves.
Drawn into an ugly situation for a variety of reasons, Levitt’s character must rely on numerous things to survive. His condition makes this difficult, yet also creates the way out in an ironic quirk of the plot. As the bank robbery goes awry, first time director Scott Frank amps up the tension, giving the movie a boost it rides until the ending.
The conclusion does seem like an easy out, covering the characters to lead to the Hollywood ending. Not only is it explained in one line of dialogue, it goes by incredibly fast and stretches plausibility. Aside from this one mistake, The Lookout is a fantastically crafted drama that deserves an audience.