If you have been as excited as I have, for as long as I have, at the prospect of seeing Looper at the cinema then I am pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed. It’s smart enough in many ways to stop you noticing the major plotholes, it’s high concept but feels like a small gem and it’s a science fiction and action movie that gives plenty of space over to moments of real drama and is full of superb performances from everyone onscreen.
Many people already know the great premise but I’ll reiterate it here because, well, that’s the template I normally work with. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a fantastic Looper, in the year 2044. Loopers are people who go to certain places at certain times and kill people sent back 30 years from the future. That’s when time travel has been invented but it’s also illegal, therefore only used by the criminal fraternity. It’s almost impossible to dispose of bodies in the future so the best way to get rid of people is to send them back in time and there is no trace of evidence pointing to suspicious death because it happened 30 years previously. Loopers are paid well for their services but there is always one day coming that they fear. The day when they are sent the future version of themselves and have to kill them to “close the loop”. Bruce Willis is the older version of Joe but when he is sent back to the designated time and place he has a plan that doesn’t involve dying. Young Joe doesn’t care about his plan, however. He wants to do his job and get on with those 30 years that he knows he has lying ahead of him. I should also mention that there are a few people with telekinetic powers in the world that is shown onscreen and one such TK, as they’re called, may present a bigger perceived threat to old Joe than his younger self.
Writer-director Rian Johnson, who greatly impressed me with Brick (I have yet to see The Brothers Bloom), seems to have an uncanny ability to make his movies cool and slightly affected without feeling jarringly fake and smug. This movie mixes in an element of noir, though less so than in Brick, that just lends all of the dialogue and exchanges something more entertaining than anything either struggling to play everything in a naturalistic style or throw more and more sci-fi elements at the audience. Nope, Looper explains the ideas and elements that need explaining but then it simply uses everything to take viewers on a journey through some moments that are thrilling and some moments that are very, very dark indeed.
Actually, before I move on to praising the acting in the movie, I must emphasise that last point. Looper has at least two sequences in the mix that I can put up there with the most disturbing moments that I’ve seen in mainstream cinema in the last few years. As the movie plays out and you watch certain things unfold you begin to think of the repercussions, your mind starts to imagine what you’re not being shown up front. And it’s horrific.
The darker moments show just how well Johnson does with the writing and directing duties. In the wrong hands, the darker moments would be enough to unbalance the whole thing. Thankfully, the movie is anything but unbalanced. There’s even a lot of humour throughout the film, some of it obvious and some of it quite sly.
Now I can get on with mentioning the acting. I has been avoiding details of the movie because I didn’t want anything to spoil my viewing experience so I’m not sure just how much to slightly alter Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face was done digitally and how much of it was practical make up. What I am sure of is how the actor sells the whole idea 100%. Being asked to, basically, impersonate a young Bruce Willis could have led to a performance full of cringe-inducing tics and obvious mugging but that’s absolutely not the case. Joseph Gordon-Levitt nails the accent, the mannerisms and every aspect of how a young Bruce Willis would play it. Willis simply has to turn up and do his thing but he still does well, even if he does have the much easier part to play. To be honest, I think he may have spent the entire movie grinning at the fact that he would now have this movie to sit alongside 12 Monkeys as a perfect double-bill of fantastic, though also very different, time travel movies. Emily Blunt does well with her role, as does Piper Perabo, but the ladies aren’t as well-served by the script and storyline as the men are. Jeff Daniels, for example, gets his best movie role in years as Abe, the boss man, while Noah Segan and Garret Dillahunt both do great as two very different Gat Men (all you need to know is that they’re armed and dangerous).
Looper is fantastic entertainment from the start almost to the finish but, sadly, if there are any big complaints that I would make against the film it’s that the very end of the movie is both predictable and a bit of a disappointment. Other flaws are easier to overlook, but they are there, and the movie delivers on so much that it promises that I almost feel guilty for sharing my opinion here that the film is a very good one, just falling short of real greatness.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: RIAN JOHNSON
STARS: JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, BRUCE WILLIS, EMILY BLUNT, PAUL DANO, NOAH SEGAN, PIPER PERABO, JEFF DANIELS, GARRET DILLAHUNT
RUNTIME: 118 MINS APPROX