Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels
Country: United States, China
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 118 minutes
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
USA Release: 9/28/2012
On DVD (USA): 12/31/2012
For what may be the most talked about and highly anticipated film of the year, “Looper” seems to live up to the continued success that Rian Johnson has maintained since 2005’s “Brick”, which was not only his feature film debut but also his first collaboration with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “Brick” not only established Gordon-Levitt as a top notch independent actor shedding his adolescent years on television away in one step, but also made Johnson a landmark director with his spin on the film noir genre set in high school.
“Time Travel has not yet been invented but 30 years from now it would have been.” Taking place in the year 2044, while the United States suffers from economic collapse and decay, organized crime is at an all time high. During this time a strange mutation has come into existence effecting 10% of the population, they are called TK’s for having telekinetic powers. What also exists during this time is a special group of people called “loopers”, because time travel is invented 30 years from now in 2074 it was immediately outlawed. However crime organizations secretly use it to dispose of targets. By sending them into the past the loopers kill and dispose of a person that no longer exists in the future. Suddenly though these same crime bosses have started ending a looper’s contract or “closing the loop” where they send his older version back to be killed by his younger self. One such looper is Joseph “Joe” Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is about to meet his older self (Bruce Willis) and be taken on a journey he never expected.
“Looper” is one of those films, that comes along every once in a while, like “Inception”, delivering something thought provoking while providing just as much action. Like with Johnson’s debut film “Brick”, he is able to make what could be a very confusing and drawn out story in the wrong hands into a beautifully complex and thrilling story that is neatly packaged together in 2 hours. It’s the kind of storyline that will give you and your friends a multitude of topics to discuss, with things like time travel, telekinetic abilities and facing ones older (or maybe younger) self. Rian Johnson has proved that complex storytelling is not a lost art form that just pops up every few years in an independent film, but that it can be something be put out in a mainstream market. While not everyone likes films that make them think, it’s undeniably something needed in the world of film. Johnson is just one in a group of many new and old writer/directors that are wanting to make their wildest imagination come to life and challenges audiences in a new way, much like the films of the 1970’s.
One thing that is crucial in a science fiction film is style and boy does “Looper” have plenty of that. From the smoothness of the story to the breathtaking visuals of the future, it delivers a multitude of eye candy. While the future isn’t looking so great having cars be more economical with solar panels all over them they lose the individuality that many people look for in a cool car. The streets are cluttered with garbage and what not, like an alley way just on every street or what you expect a post apocalyptic world would look like. But the loopers are rich, driving their high priced sports cars and flying motorbikes, which stick out like sore thumbs. That difference show we are just as diverse as we are now expect the difference is even more direct. While this film may be more mainstream than Johnson’s previous films, having more special effects and elaborate stunts, it still has the indie feel to it. I think if it wasn’t for that, the film would have come off more generic. Johnson’s directing provides pulsating sweeping shots with action that fills the entire screen. It incorporates many different eras although we are set in the future, most of which is seen in the “retro” type cloths everyone from Joe to Suzie the showgirl are wearing. It’s a film that appreciates the past while looking towards the future.
Some may look at this film and see some small aspects that could be compared to other films, but this film is so much it’s own that there is no need to. Johnson’s writing weaves through the story so well with tremendous depth that although paradoxes are formed like with any time travel film, he finds a brilliantly easy way to sidestep all of them. Every director or writer that does time travel gives it it’s own rules, some use the “Butterfly Effect” that makes the person in the film scared of changing events in the past that will effect his future. And other just act like that isn’t something that happens, in the end who is right? Everyone? No One? Who will ever know, but it makes for some great fun at the movies. Anyway Johnson gives his own take on time travel with some totally amazing yet down right frightening scenes of the game I’ll call “how to make the older looper sent back to die but got away come to you”. And while he may not answer every question, he finds a way to leave it up to you, which lets face it, is just as much fun as watching the film.
Just like the writing and the directing, the actors brought everything to the table for this film, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who had double duty of not just his regular acting, but having to resemble a young Bruce Willis. But before getting to that, lets talk about the supporting player. We had a slew of memorable performances from the supporting cast, Jeff Daniels while his part isn’t particularly large brought it home playing Abe the man from the future sent back to the past to run the organization of “loopers”. He seems to be the three c’s, calm, cool, and collective but any action that he doesn’t approve of sends him raving mad and on a quest to end it, and Daniels is just the person to play that very unreadable kind of person. Paul Dano is another who’s role is very small but he does a great job. His character, Seth is kind of a cocky person like most “loopers” probably are, but when he messes up he is as needy and scared as a coulrophobia is at a circus. Then there is Piper Perabo who plays Suzie a showgirl with a stone heart, her character isn’t hard to figure out, the short description I just gave you should pretty much make it clear to you. Anyway this is a very different character to see her play as she normally goes for the good girl type roles but its nice to see her testing new waters with this one. Noah Segan (who you may or may not remember from “Brick” playing Dode) is playing Kid Blue a member of the “Gat Men” a group of hired muscle that Abe started. While Segan’s role consists of him running around and making a fool out of himself, he proves to make it work by his seer determination for the character’s loyalty. Oh and I can’t forget to mention the surprise of seeing Garret Dillahunt from “Raising Hope” show up in the film, it was also a short but very nice performance.
One of the biggest surprises of the film was the discovery of Pierce Gagnon who played Cid. While he may be more of a supporting player his performance made him a lead in my book, this kid blew me away. The role of Cid is one I’d rather not give away because it makes the film so much better by not knowing. Either way this kid is someone to keep an eye on, his performance would make the kid from 1976’s “The Omen” shutter. And then there is Emily Blunt who played Sara. Like you can always find in her roles, she delivers a high amount of charm. Weather she is the grueling head assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada” or pointing a shotgun at you like she does in “Looper” there is just something there. Sara is a somewhat complex and mysterious character having made mistakes she goes from living in the city to a farm house in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, where she is just trying to fix her mistakes. Blunt’s performance is a range of emotion as she just wants to protect her own.
And last but not least it’s the battle of the two Joes, young versus old, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. While these two actors might not seem like a fitting choice to play the same character, they surprise you in how much they resemble one another. Although Bruce Willis is essentially playing the character the way he would play say John McClane from the “Die Hard” series, even wielding a machine gun at one point, I even half expected him to say his famous line “Yippee-ki-yey, motherf******!”. But he proves to show a range of emotion though that hard exterior with his mission to save someones life. As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he has the difficult task of not only trying to looking like a young Bruce Willis but totally embodying him and while there was not a way to make him look exactly like him, with the makeup and his excellent execution of mannerisms, the resemblance is quite surreal. Gordon-Levitt like in pretty much all of his films goes all out to make the character real and “Looper” is no different. We watch as his character changes from a “blunderbuss” welding heartless, drugged up “looper” to an actually human being. His performance is strong, smart and at times compassionate, and even though he is resembling Willis in this role, what you can always expect to see in a Gordon-Levitt performance is here, tenfold.
Overall “Looper” is a mind-bending, multi genre piece of cinematic genius from the mind that brought us “Brick”. While you may think that there is only one easy layer to this film, it proves not only to deliver multiple layers but keep it so high octane that your eye will be glued to the screen. Along with the brilliant, stylish, and complicated script and breath taking directing, the stars of the film deliver some of their most powerful work to date. This film will go down in history as one of the best films for this year and possibly many years to come.