Movie Review: Looper
Sep 29, 2012 / 4:00 pm
Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated with the concept of time travel. Over the years I've seen a slew of great films that deal with time travel, from George Pal's The Time Machine, to Planet of the Apes, to Time Bandits, to Back to the Future, to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and 12 Monkeys to name a few. Now joining the pantheon of excellent films on this subject matter is Rian Johnson's Looper.
Ok, I'm just going to get the hyperbole out of the way now and tell you that Looper is an absolutely fantastic, mind-bending thrill ride of a movie that combines elements of science fiction, gangster, western and family drama pictures all rolled in to one tightly woven, intricately plotted and wonderfully conceived bit of genre filmmaking.
Set in Kansas in the year 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a junkie and former criminal makes a living by working as a "looper", which is essentially a hired assassin. Time travel has yet to be invented, but it will be 30 years further in the future. A powerful and ruthless mob boss known only as the Rainmaker sends his enemies back in time to have them killed in order to leave no trace or loose ends. All a looper has to do is stand in a designated place at a certain time and the victim will show up, hooded and kneeling and strapped with a pile of silver on their back as payment to the looper. One quick blast from a gun, known as a blunderbuss, and it's all over. But sometimes, the victim will show up with gold bars strapped to them and the looper will then know that it is the future version of themselves. This is known as "closing your loop", and it means that they can now take their gold and live the next 30 years however they see fit. The problem is when Joe's future self arrives in the form of Bruce Willis, he hesitates just long enough to allow his future self to get the drop on him and take off. Now he must chase down his own future self all while dealing with the henchmen of his boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), who's none too happy that he messed up his assignment to kill himself. Is your brain hurting yet?
Don't worry, the film isn't nearly as complicated as the plot sounds and a huge reason for that is that director Rian Johnson does a tremendous job of making this story all about the characters and less about the time travel itself. It doesn't get bogged down in technical explanations of the science. Besides, the more you actually think about the paradox of time travel, the more you start to confuse yourself - just go with it and be entertained.
And that's really the point here because Looper definitely delivers on the entertainment aspect. There's pulse pounding action and suspense as well as effectively used moments of visual splendour that are simply badass and awesome.
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both give exceptional performances as Joe. Even though he's not a nice man and does horrible things you can't help but be somewhat sympathetic towards him and root for him - both versions of him. I was completely emotionally invested in their characters and when the wonderful Emily Blunt shows up, it took the story to another level and in a direction I wasn't anticipating. I'm reluctant to say anything about her character and place in the story as it would give too much away and the thrill of discovery is one of the best aspects of this film. I must also point out the amazing make up job that they did on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to transform him into the younger version of Bruce Willis. Levitt does a bang up job of imitating the mannerisms and speech patterns of Willis to make it seem believable.
It's so refreshing to see a thought provoking and intelligently done science fiction film that's quite dark at times and definitely earns its R rating. I wish that studios would have the cojones to encourage more films like this than to keep constantly serving the pablum that panders to the masses like they usually do.
Looper is an incredible film filled with twists and turns that takes you to unexpected places and moves effortlessly while doing so. It's easily one of the best films of the year thus far and I highly recommend that you seek it out as soon as possible.
I give Looper a 9 out of 10.
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