Monday, October 8, 2012

Looper

LOOPER

Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 118 mins
Opens: 11 October 2012





Looper - ReviewThere’s no doubt about it: time travel has been something that’s fascinated the public consciousness for quite a while now. From H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to Back to the Future to The Time-Traveller’s Wife, it seems authors and filmmakers have tapped into mankind’s almost primal desire to transcend the boundaries of time. It could be compared to mankind’s almost primal desire to fly. But while we’ve kinda achieved flight by way of heavier-than-air flying machines, time travel is still something that is quite elusive, to say the least.

Writer-director Rian Johnson’s film Looper offers an interesting twist on things: the ‘Loopers’ of the title are specialised assassins who take care of the trash of the future, by executing those sent back in time by criminal syndicates for a clean, untraceable disposal. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is one such Looper, living the high life working his fairly uncomplicated job. However, every Looper must eventually ‘close the loop’ – i.e. kill the future version of themselves sent back in time, effectively tying up any loose ends for the crime syndicates. However, Joe’s future self (Willis) won’t go out without a fight, and evades execution. The younger Joe seeks refuge at a farm owned by redneck single mother Sara (Blunt), and just as he figures out how to deal with future-Joe, future-Joe sees the opportunity to right a few wrongs now that he’s in the past, and both must confront each other - even if it means tearing apart the fabric of time itself.



Looper is not your grandfather’s time-travel movie. Johnson has crafted a very intelligent, highly-engaging picture. He quickly establishes the high-concept premise and the story never gets swallowed up in its complexities. There’s a scene where future-Joe meets Joe in a diner, and says that if he attempted to explain the mechanics of time-travel, they’d end up sitting there for hours “making diagrams with straws”. Johnson makes sure he doesn’t end up doing that himself, instead spinning a very human and surprisingly poignant yarn with the science-fiction element as a backdrop. The picture is stylish but never flashy, and Johnson keeps a firm hold on his narrative even as it branches out into “possible eventualities” and alternate futures. Our attention is captured by the intricate plot, so much so that we never stop to question the metaphysical technicalities of it all, and that is very much to Johnson’s credit.

This film re-teams Johnson with the star of his earlier film Brick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So, does he make for a decent Junior Bruce Willis? Yes. Although the prosthetic makeup designed by Kazuhiro Tsuji can start off looking a mite goofy, it’s easy to get past that and the actor does a marvellous job emulating Willis’ strained vocal affectations. There was a time when Bruce Willis could have been considered sexy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal seems to hearken back to those days. He puts across the moral and emotional toll being a Looper takes on Joe very well without doing too much, and he shares crackling chemistry with Willis himself.

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As the older Joe, Willis is really good and actively lends his action hero credibility to the part, without his ‘icon’ status overshadowing the rest of the film. This movie doesn’t succumb to the clich√© of having the older version of the character act as a mentor to his younger self and show him the ropes; rather both versions of Joe are almost constantly at each other’s throats and Willis is bitter and aggressive as the older one. What’s quite amusing is how quickly both Joes get over the absurdity of it all, staying focused on their respective missions as the other Loopers are sent to hunt them down (led by a rather intimidating Jeff Daniels).

When one thinks ‘redneck single mother’, English Rose Emily Blunt isn’t the name that immediately springs to mind, but she does a fantastic job as Sara, Southern accent and all. The character is a tough chick that isn’t your stereotypical tough chick; she’s just looking out for her son and making a living on the farm. The subplot which focuses on her character is intriguing to say the least. About halfway through, Looper becomes a completely different film, and while this makes sense in retrospect, it can come off as jarring and abrupt to some. This is one aspect of the film we are desperate not to spoil; the twists and revelations are just incredible. We’ll give you one hint – it’s a little “X-Men”. There are themes of predestination (a little akin to The Adjustment Bureau, also starring Emily Blunt) and sacrifice, and by the film’s end it’s turned from a head-spinning sci-fi action thriller to a poignant, moving drama – and yet doesn’t feel too disjointed.

We moviegoers often complain that Hollywood seems to have well and truly lost its creativity and is content in churning out production line cash-ins, banking on the names of franchises by way of sequels and remakes. Looper is a blunderbusser blast in the face to all of that. Here is a heady, intelligently-made science fiction film that true aficionados of the genre will want to take in, layering emotion, thrills and philosophy one on top of the other. It may not be immediately accessible and it will take a bit of effort to make sense of, but audiences will be amply rewarded.

SUMMARY: A refreshingly original, captivating sci-fi action thriller, this is one loop you want to keep yourself in even if it means working a little for it.

RATING: 4 out of 5 STARS

Jedd Jong

2 comments:

  1. Great review Jedd. Didn’t have me as emotionally-invested as I thought I could have been, but still, a pretty solid sci-fi flick that’s heavy on story and characters, which is all that mattered to me.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Yep, it's been said that sci-fi is a genre that can get quite cold at times, so to have a flick built around story and characters as you said, as opposed to technology, gimmickry or cool visuals, does make this worth a watch.

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