Director: Rian Johnson.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano.
Run Time: 118 minutes.
Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (herein referred to as the dynamically sexy JGL) as Joe, a hitman who whacks people sent back in time by future scumbags. Things take a turn for the worse when Joe is tasked with ‘closing his loop’, where his future self is sent back to be assassinated by him in the present. It is certainly an ingenious idea, literally making future people disappear. Factor in Rian Johnson (director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom), and Looper was certainly one that I had my eye on.
To begin with at least, the film looks good, blending old and new, but the more that’s revealed about the future, the more generic or ridiculous the world becomes. Personally, I feel it would have benefitted more from being set in the present day. The best Sci-Fi is either set in our current universe, with one major change (such as time travel), or in a radically different future with a fully realised set of innovations (such as Blade Runner). Looper doesn’t really present anything new in its vision of the future, while the guns look somewhat absurd in the future setting. I can see what Johnson is trying to achieve here, much like in Brick, where he re-imagined the Film Noir genre in a modern day high school setting. Here we have twinges of the Old West and Gangster films, but it just doesn’t quite work.
Like Brick though, Looper does try to defy the standard time travel caper. Without giving anything away, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’m yet to decide if this is a good or bad thing.
The action throughout is solid, if unspectacular, with some nice flourishes fans have come to expect from Johnson. It also has bags of Johnson’s trademark quirky wit, and his own brand of almost dark slapstick, making the film unexpectedly funny. The pace shifts between break-neck and languid, to keep us viewers on our toes, with millions of knowing nods to various different films. The plot, like most time travel films, raises a bunch of questions, but not in such a way that removes you from the film too much, or stops you from enjoying it. Jeff Daniels basically tells you not to think about time paradoxes too much, and who are we to argue with him?
The performances from the cast are strong, with a great turn from Jeff Daniels as the head of Looper operations. Both Bruce Willis and JGL are great, but feel like two separate entities, rather than two versions of the same person. They feel more dad and lad in that respect, playing off of the ‘Old’ and ‘young’ Joe personas. This isn’t helped by the prosthetic/CGI work to make JGL look like Bruce Willis. I thought this would really grate on me, and stop me from truly immersing into the experience, but he does sort of look like him. It’s a nice touch to get them to look similar, as I usually find myself criticising future or past versions of characters in films, being the massive pedant that I am.
All in all, the film is a nice rumination on the nature of free will, choice, and destiny. What would you be willing to do to save your present? How far would you be willing to go to alter your future? I don’t wish to go into too much detail here, as a plot point that is important to this question I was unaware of going into the film, and I wish for you to see it as blind as I did. If you’ve seen the film, I hope you understand what I mean. Again, without spoiling it, there was a little bit of plot device laziness for me that I wouldn’t expect from Johnson, and this is where the film falters ever so slightly for me. It is redeemed by some truly un-nerving scenes relating to said plot device, so it sort of evens out. God that was a cryptic paragraph to write, so if anyone wants this clarifying, we can do so in the comments section.
I feel like Looper has a fantastic concept, but it hasn’t been fully realised. It could have been truly amazing, had there of been more focus on the decision to kill your future self present, considering the scope for the emotional anguish this would cause and the difficult choices involved. But then again, Rian Johnson would never allow a jerk like me to second guess one of his film plots, so for this I am grateful, and he should be commended for trying to forge his own cinematic legacy at the very least.
Score: 7 out of 10.
If you liked this, check out: Minority Report, Terminator, Brick, Time Cop, Akira, The Brothers Bloom, Twelve Monkeys.