‘Looper’ Movie Review – A Little of Everything
Director Rian Johnson has rightfully been credited as one of Hollywood’s brightest new talents. Starting with Brick, a small-budget neo-noir, he showed off his skills as a writer, director, and genre-busting storyteller. His second feature, The Brothers Bloom, was a little less successful critically, but still holds up as an all-round decent movie. When we finally heard about his upcoming project Looper and his return to friend and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, excitement grew to a fever pitch. For me personally, Looper was more ballyhooed than almost every other movie this year.
Thankfully, I’m here to tell you the fever pitch is worth it as Johnson, in my opinion, has created his best work in his very young career. Much like Brick, he weaves his story through multiple genres, all while creating a time-travel story that is thrilling, entertaining, thought-provoking, and most importantly: complete.
For those unfamiliar with the premise, it is set in the near future where time travel has been invented, but immediately outlawed. Individuals are recruited as “loopers,” who assassinate people from even farther in the future via illegal time travel. Since it is difficult to kill people in 2074(ish), mob bosses send their scum back in time for the loopers to do their dirty work.
The hitch comes with what to do with these loopers since they are undoubtedly a loose end. They enter into an agreement to sacrifice their own lives 30 years down the road once they’ve had their future self assassinated. It sounds kind of complicated, but the main point is: once you kill your future self, you have 30 years to live until you are grabbed, transported, and assassinated…by an earlier version of yourself.
For those scared the plot might be too confusing, I urge you to go out of your comfort zone. While there were definitely times it was pretty confusing, the thing made sense by the end. Looper dances the line between being mind-warping and completely satisfying in ways other similar films aren’t quite as successful (I’m mostly thinking of the brain-scrambling Primer).
Now, what happens if you don’t “close your loop?” Better yet, assuming you aren’t killed straight away, is there a way to influence the future once you are sent back? Those are the deep questions Looper ponders, which gets at the heart of the conflict.
It’s pretty easy to get the gist of the story from the trailers (or by simply reading what I’ve just wrote), but those materials don’t really give away what I believe is the main conflict. Let’s just say, there is a whole second layer of the story which makes the shiny appeal of time-travel completely secondary.
This is where the movie starts to mix-and-match genres. On the surface, it looks a lot like a sci-fi action-adventure movie. However, like most stories, there’s a degree of romance (I’d argue, though, this is one of the least effective parts). Surprisingly, the film actually reaches into the superhero genre a bit, as well as being slightly creepy and quizzically funny.
Besides Gordon-Levitt, one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, Bruce Willis stars as the older version of Joe, putting forth one of his better performances in quite some time. Johnson uses Willis’ comedic skills the most to his advantage. When the first images of Looper were released, I was scared that Gordon-Levitt’s Bruce Willis-like make-up would be distracting, but it ultimately wasn’t.
Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels are the other big names to appear. However, the very, very little known Pierce Gagnon gives the most chilling performance, which is ultimately the biggest surprise of the movie, even after all of the plot twists and turns.
Looper is really a film that has a little of everything. If you are looking for things “wrong” with the movie, there are probably a few little things – most notably the exposition and narration – that you could harp on. I, though, like to look at the big picture. When I step back and examine the film, it’s one hell of a story that doesn’t stop at being just a “cool concept.” Johnson takes it a step further with his script and direction, while the entire cast brings their best to the table.
Looper opens today nationwide and I would highly suggest seeing it as soon as possible…then travel back in time and see it again. Okay, that was a stupid joke, but you get the point.
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