What would you do if one day you had a heart-to-heart talk with yourself, which is decades older than you? What if you were a hit-man and you were ordered to take out yourself? Such questions and much more are posed in Rian Johnson’s “Looper”, an excellent addition to the science- fiction genre. No wait, it isn’t just science-fiction, it’s also an action thriller and a crime drama (complete with noir-like narration) with a healthy dollop of romance. This movie knocked my socks off.
In the future, time-travel is illegal, and yet somehow some criminals managed to get their hands on the technology, and send targets back in time to be assassinated by hit men called Loopers. These Loopers, such as Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) live rich when the economic structure of the rest of society is crumbling around them. However, a thing called ‘closing the loop’ happens when the Loopers kill older versions of themselves sent back from the future – effectively eliminating all trace of the Loopers back to the organization which hired them. Trouble befalls Joe when he lets his guard down enough to let his older self (Bruce Willis) escape. How a young Kansas farm lady (Emily Blunt) and her son fit into this plot I will not reveal. One might be thinking “A- ha! I know where this is going” in many scenes, but Johnson is smarter than that. He has a trick up every sleeve, turning a potential cliché over its head. Such an intense ride. Such superb writing by Johnson who also directs the film with flair, and kinetics when duty calls him to. This being his first mainstream film, who knows what he’ll come up with next.
Looper delivers. An ingenious, intelligent, daring screenplay which brings a fresh and thought-provoking twist to the time-travel genre while also inverting it. It has brutal violence in between the genuinely thrilling, adrenaline pumping action sequences – adding raw edge to the film. It is also a strong morality play – it blurs the line between hero-isms and villainous acts. The younger Joe, the hero of the film played by Gordon-Levitt in a smart-aleck performance, is a thug that kills people for money and luxury. The older version of the character as portrayed by Willis is a bruised, tortured, intense soul underneath all that toughness, a wounded, broken man who is determined to set things right his way – however morally skewered it is. Not forgetting a vulnerable and fragile performance by Blunt who provides a strong emotional and (non-cliché) romantic core to the younger Joe, and a mischievous, mysterious yet witty act from little Pierce Gagnon, who maintains the right balance of emotions for the role. Not forgetting Jeff Daniels as a businessman-like supervisor for the Loopers – charismatic at times, brutal at others.
Some very good cinematography by Steve Yedlin really shows nice, wide angles and refreshingly crisp action sequences in their glory – and also showcases the sleek production design, a futuristic Kansas metropolis not unlike the city of Blade Runner, only with more impoverished people. The special effects are good for what the budget is for the film but I strongly appreciate its subtlety for not choking on unnecessary CGI. It actually enhances the intensity of the film. Editing is crisp and paces the film nicely, without leaving too much or too little. Nathan Johnson’s score is very good, actually, some old-school action orchestra work among the subtler parts can be heard here, with perfect timing, and it is a fine addition to the movie.
“Looper” is extremely entertaining and yet one hell of a film. Very intense and thrilling, very exciting, very thought provoking, substantially emotional and stylish and ultimately just damn great. We might see a cult of fans hoarding this movie soon. Just when you think there’s hardly any more original sci-fi flicks, out comes this wallop of a film – surprisingly one of 2012’s very best.
8 out of 10 stars