Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Looper Review

Writer / Director: Rian Johnson

This review hasn’t been written yet. but it will be…

You are a mobster. The year is 2074. The marvel of time travel exists. It’s forbidden but well within your grasp. What would you do? Well, you use time travel as a convenient, untraceable human disposal method, silly! An interesting take on a genre that’s been tackled countless times over the years. It makes a real difference when sci-fi, supernatural elements of a film like Looper sit in a solid foundation of logic; it’s easier to embrace & accept. That’s not to say there aren’t a few time travel questions that’ll crop up in your head when you watch this but honestly, there always are with this genre! If you are one of those that will revel in analysing the intricacies’ of a plot (to death), you will definitely stop yourself enjoying a perfectly good film and frankly miss the point – go with it: I did and found it easy enough to not get hung up on those niggles.
Helping avoid those hang ups further, is the futuristic backdrop which is deliberately not ‘totally out there’. Aside from a few hovering vehicles, basic telepathy being commonplace and the odd totally transparent mobile device, most of the setting & surroundings are not a huge leap from what we know today. It’s easy to relate to which lets you focus on the actual film.

The opening scene grabs you and remains reluctant to let go until the credits. Rather like the unsuspecting time travel victims prepped with bags-on-heads to meet their doom, the opening scene narrated by our lead man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt bluntly dumps you into this reality – (I won’t spoil the detail for you but the opening made me smile in a ‘dark, yet cool’ kind of way). The whole concept is succinctly explained and underpinned by some subtly excellent acting from Levitt which continues throughout.

Levitt plays Joe, one of several ‘Loopers’ in the year 2044 who have the remit to unceremoniously ‘knock off’ arrivals from around 30 years in the future with the close-range firearm of choice known as a ‘Blunderbuss’ and dispose of the bodies. Joe’s existence appears uninspiring and futile from the start; drugs, prostitutes, murder but all consistently accompanied by an endearing sense of regret, hope and ambition battling to the surface… difficult to imagine how this guy’s life could get much worse, until a bag-free, future ‘Joe’ played by Bruce Willis lands on his kill spot. One pull of the trigger and Joe’s loop is closed but the alternative is a life on the run from the mob, led in young Joe’s time by ‘Abe’ (Jeff Daniels). The film goes on to reveal more about why and how this occurred and specifically more about someone called ‘the rainmaker’: a powerful man in the future who is systematically closing all the loops. 

The script I imagine was a blessing for some of the actors / actresses, with several characters packing plenty of meat to sink their teeth into. So, it’s no surprise that Looper boasts a star studded cast (Willis, Levitt, Daniels, Paul Dano, Emily Blunt…) with some noteworthy performances.

Full marks go to Levitt for what I thought was a subtle and mature performance in a lead role opposite legendary veteran, Willis - another stride forward from his recent role in The Dark Knight Rises. Both manage to straddle the rather crude “goody / baddy” camps which I often create in my head when watching any film (everyone does this, right?....guys?...). You’ll find yourself rooting for both of them at different points, letting the questionable morals of each wash over you.

Interestingly, Levitt has prosthetic facial alterations, to make a more believable younger Willis. I did in hindsight question whether I paid more attention to his performance because of this; a bit like a friend sporting a bad haircut, it’s tough to not stare at the thing! – but then I thought harder and realised I really didn’t care that much: a very good performance in my opinion and it didn’t distract too much for me.
It was also refreshing to see Willis deliver an arguably more gritty character to the screen than the norm – it would have been easy to write & play this role in typical blockbuster-movie-style, as a smooth & assured, highly trained killer or something but there’s a clear sense of vulnerability and uncertainty throughout which I enjoyed. This is definitely amplified purely because it’s Bruce Willis which may have been deliberate casting choice (fair play, why not). More so than any other, Willis is faced with gut wrenching circumstances and decisions, centred around morals vs love (yes - of course there’s love in the plot, every film has a dash of love… it’s all we need, don’t argue with The Beatles).

For the more thoughtful film goers, you can easily pick out a few core themes, one of which is the importance of childhood and what a massive difference this can make to an individual. And what would you say to yourself in 30 years time? What would they (or rather, you…) say to you…?! That’s one of the interesting questions you’ll leave the cinema with. In the case of Bruce & Joseph (Joe), neither are impressed! Perhaps the deeper thinkers amongst us would say this film could be viewed as a useful kick up the ass: life is indeed unfolding rapidly in front of us and you don’t want the future you to be a disappointment, do you? And what would a future you think of you right now? Not good? …so make it better! …anyway, luckily for you, this review is no-where near as deep as that.

Looper sports a healthy balance of intrigue, suspense, action and sci-fi, keeps a fair pace throughout and to Johnson’s credit, it’s easy enough to follow - the whole time travel thing can make your brain hurt at the best of times but with only a couple of moments of self-doubt aside, it was straight forward enough to grasp whilst being complex enough to be interesting.

You should go see this film, but my only advice before you do is: please, don’t overthink it!

Dan Hayes

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