Sunday, September 30, 2012


“I think Looper works best as a character piece, but the time travel aspects of this futuristic crime drama are also well utilized and satisfy this science fiction fan’s love of the genre.”

Science-fiction, Crime-drama and Action

Starring - Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, Bruce Willis as Old Joe, Emily Blunt as Sara, Paul Dano as Seth, Noah Segan as Kid Blue, Piper Perabo as Suzie, Jeff Daniels as Abe, Pierce Gagnon as Cid, Qing Xu as Old Joe's Wife, Tracie Thoms as Beatrix, Frank Brennan as Old Seth, Garret Dillahunt as Jesse, Nick Gomez as Dale and Marcus Hester as Zach

Director - Rian Johnson

Writer - Rian Johnson

Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.

Runtime - 118 min.

There are three different reasons that I will go to the time and expense of seeing a movie at the theater. The first reason is that it is a film in one of my three favorite genres: science fiction, fantasy and horror. The second reason is that it is directed by someone whose films I have enjoyed in the past. The third reason is that it features one or more actors whose work I have admired in the past. It is rare when all these reasons for wanting to watch a film as soon as it is released to theaters occurs, but that is just what happened with Looper, the new science-fiction thriller released to nearly 3000 theaters this weekend.

I have always been intrigued by science fiction films that deal with time-travel and Looper uses it to tell a fascinating story about a man whose job is to kill people that a crime syndicate thirty years in the future wants to disappear. Time travel was invented in this future, but was quickly illegalize, so of course the only ones to possess it are the mob bosses. In the year 2044, Joe is a looper who works for a mafia company in Kansas City. Joe's boss, Abe was sent back in time to manage the loopers and also owns a club where Joe spends his down time taking drugs and having sex with a club dancer, Suzie. Loopers are so named because at some point the crime bosses will end a looper's contract by sending his older version back to be killed by his younger self; referred to as "closing the loop.” One night, Joe's friend and fellow looper Seth, visits him and begs for help, telling Joe that he was supposed to close his own loop but couldn’t. Eventually Joe gives his friend up, but soon thereafter is assigned to close his own loop. Joe’s older self keeps from being shot by young Joe and escapes. Young Joe goes on the run, hoping to kill his older self and get back into the good graces of Abe.

Director of Looper, Rian Johnson, has directed and also written only two other feature films: The darkly-comic romance and heist drama The Brothers Bloom (2008) and the teen crime-noir drama Brick (2005). I have seen both of these films prior to watching Looper and knew that Johnson was capable of crafting a complex story featuring characters that develop and change with the circumstances that they find themselves in. Looper takes its basic premise of a man who has made the difficult decision to work as a looper and be an assassin instead of a victim. Johnson is not content to tell the more-or less simple story of a man faced with the prospect of killing his future self, because more than half-way into the film, he adds a twist to the plot that makes Looper much more than a futurist time-travelling crime-drama. In this version of the future that Johnson has created, 10% of the population has become genetically altered and have telekinetic powers. Most of these powers are inconsequential, but there are rumors of someone called the Rainmaker, who is taking over organized crime and for unknown reasons is closing all the loops. In a way that is both natural and complicated, Johnson ties the story of the two Joes and the Rainmaker together, ending the film by tying up all the many plotlines and character stories together satisfactorily. With Looper, Rian Johnson proves that he is a director to watch out for and I will be very interested in future film projects.

Two-thousand twelve has been a very good year for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He first appeared this past July as Blake in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. He then starred this August in the action-thriller Premium Rush.        I first noticed Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Arthur in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film Inception (2010). In Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt not only plays a morally complex assassin, but does a skillful impression of Bruce Willis, who plays his character thirty years in the future. Gordon-Levitt also wore prosthetics throughout Looper, to make him look more like a younger Bruce Willis. Gordon-Levitt has so much screen time that if he didn’t pull this off, the film would have been a failure. Fortunately, he was more than up to the task. Bruce Willis who plays the older Joe from the future has always been a favorite actor of mine. Willis often plays variations of his John McClane character from the Die Hard films, but every once in a while he gets to play a character with more depth of emotion. Willis not only conveys the loss of his life in the future, but ably conveys the physical difficulties of a man forced into violent action at an advanced age. Two other favorites of mine, Emily Blunt as Sara and Jeff Daniels as Abe add depth to their characters, despite their somewhat small amount of screen time.

I think Looper works best as a character piece, but the time travel aspects of this futuristic crime drama are also well utilized and satisfy this science fiction fan’s love of the genre. My only grip with the futuristic aspects of the film are budgetary ones, I’m sure. Like many lower-budgeted science fiction films, most of the fundamental tech of the future looks very contemporary. Some of this is explained away with the poorer population forced to make do with less advanced technology, but it still seemed like the film could have worked at creating a more three-dimensional futuristic look. Like Rian Johnson’s other two films, Looper does not offer a neat and pat conclusion to his film. It does end satisfactorily from a plot point, tying up all the loose story threads, but for those inclined toward films that evict a certain moral and emotional certainty, Looper’s climax may feel you leaving ambivalent and unfulfilled. It will however leave you thinking about it well after having watched it and that is something most films do not do.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 10 Directing – 10 Cinematography – 9 Script – 9 Special Effects – 8

VISCERAL: Visual – 8 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 9 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 10

TOTAL - 91

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