Movie Review: Looper

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan, Pierce Gagnon, Jeff Daniels

Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content , Running time 118 minutes, Action/Thriller/Sci-Fi

Compare to: Deja Vu (2006), Inception (2010)

I’m going to do my best to not build this movie up too much so as not to higher anyone’s expectations on what this film is like. Put simply though, Looper is the most intelligent example of an Action movie not involving Batman since 2010’s Inception. Director Rian Johnson has put together a movie that has a deeper subtext spilling out of the seams with every scene, every line.

It’s everything you’d want in a futuristic thriller, provided you’re prepared to think. At the very least, you can appreciate the well-crafted visuals.

In the near future, time travel still doesn’t exist. But in the even further future, it does and the mafia uses it to their advantage. By sending their targets back in time to be executed by assassins known as Loopers, the victims are taken care of in a past where they technically don’t exist. But when Joe (Gordon-Levitt), a Looper, is faced with executing an older version of himself (Willis), things go awry and younger Joe finds himself on the run from his employers while he tries to chase down his older self. But Old Joe not only has a few tricks up his sleeve, he’s got a purpose for surviving and he plans on seeing his mission through.

It’s interesting to me how far the creators of Looper were willing to go to give Gordon-Levitt the Bruce Willis look so as to sell the idea that they are past and present versions of each other. Gordon-Levitt’s voice, hair, and prosthetically enhanced face gives us a view of young Willis without having to extend our suspension of belief anymore than by just looking at him. Backdrops of a futuristic city with seemingly endless fields in the forefront let you easily slip into their world of gangsters and guns. Attention to little details like this are ultimately what make up this movie rather than The 5th Element’s flying car-filled, thousand foot skyscraper city. Not bashing Element though, love that one too albeit for different reasons.

The casting choices here are perfect from the smallest role to the biggest. Willis’ performance in this not only makes up for the awful Cold Light of Day, it makes me think he was putting all his talent into this and leaving nothing left for his previous endeavor. His character transitions smoothly from weathered old man to relentless killer. He’s the Willis we know, but not at the same pace as his usual tough-guy character. There’s more of a build-up which is something that could be said for much of the movie.

Director Johnson’s cast for the rest of the film is well worth the mention of course, as Gordon-Levitt seems to be having a pretty good year as far as his career goes. The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush and now Looper are all meeting critical acclaim if not financial as well. He’s great in this also while Jeff Daniels plays his part as the exhausted mob boss seems tailored for him. And it might have been, given Johnson’s affinity for working with much of the same cast as his prior work, specifically Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008), both of which feature Gordon-Levitt and Noah Segan. Watch either of those, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Emily Blunt is great too. As much as I hate to sum up her performance in a sentence, we must be moving on.

While not a complaint, it is worth it to mention that about 3/4ths into the film, it slows down a bit. Not ever slow enough to become boring, but much of the action comes to a halt as the depth of the story really comes into play. This, along with the fact that this is a thinking man’s Action movie and you might have yourself one disappointed casual movie-goer. The Action minus the brains is left for DREDD. Not criticizing that one either, as its strong points aren’t the same as Looper’s.

What might be the greatest aspect of the film though is that it’s only as deep as you want it to be. If you only want a well-paced Action/Sci-Fi story, that’s all you’ll have to get out of it. If you want all of that as well as timeless underlying themes of time and all it encompasses. A familiar question about a particular historical figure might come to mind for many of you when a major aspect of the story comes into focus, but nothing that I’ll spoil here.

Willis and Gordon-Levitt’s interactions are as strange as you’d want them to be. If you’ve ever asked yourself whether or not you’d enjoy your own company, their answer for themselves would be a resounding “NO.” The interesting thing here is who you’ll find yourself rooting for. To a degree, you may be surprised and it is left up to the audience, something I can’t say for most films, regardless of the genre.

Time travel, when brought into movies, is something that can be brushed over and leave the audience with more questions than answers. While I can’t say this movie delves into the technical aspects of time travel (would you want it to?), it does deal with much of the more mental ways meeting your younger/older self would take effect. This film is an example of what a cool concept is like when coupled with equally execution. Last year’s awful In Time is one that had a decent idea, then squandered it on style and pretentiousness. Looper is one to not just watch, but contemplate and discuss.

Grade: A-

 

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