Movie Review: Looper

I saw this one a couple of weeks ago but it absolutely deserves to be talked about.

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Starring:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Director:
Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom)
Rating: MA15+
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Before I had so much as seen a trailer, Looper was one of my most anticipated movie releases of 2012. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quickly turning into a guy whose movies I can just assume will be good, plus, I mean, Bruce Willis. Throw in one hell of an intriguing premise and I was pre-sold on this one. Thankfully, it turned out to be rather good, and not even in the way I was expecting.

Looper leans on a potentially convoluted sci-fi idea: time travel exists in its world, but only in the future, where it is illegal, and where organised crime syndicates have a difficult time disposing of corpses. Enter “Loopers”, contracted hitmen who kill any hooded victim sent back to them without so much as a bat of an eyelid. They dispatch with an old-school blunderbuss, collect their fee from the body of the dead and then incinerate said body. Then they go get high off an eyedrop-based narcotic and live their lives fast and loose, because someday they know that they will have to “close their loop”, or kill their future selves. One day our anti-hero Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Bruce Willis-esque make-up) does meet his future self (the actual Willis) but he escapes and things get steadily more complex from there.

As with any time-travel film, there are issues that arise from the mythology in use here. Yet the film does a fairly decent job of keeping its plot holes covered up, because it doesn’t really focus on its sci-fi trappings much at all. The key parts are explained well in the opening sequences and then the jargon gets out of the way for the most part so that the characters can come to the forefront. And that they do, thanks to some quality performances from all the leads.

Spoiling the twisty plot would defeat the purpose of seeing Looper, but suffice to say that Bruce Willis is given some emotionally intense material to chew on throughout the story and he handles it like a screen veteran should. Emily Blunt‘s complicated, secretive single mother is enjoyable to watch, as the role is certainly something different from what audiences may be used to seeing her in. Pierce Gagnon steals a couple of scenes as her young son, including a hilarious multiplication practice sequence, and Jeff Daniels is fun as Joe’s immediate boss. Yet Joseph Gordon-Levitt stands out from them all, as he should, thanks to an eerie understanding of Willis‘ mannerisms, facial expressions and way of speaking. Make-up or no, he is a dead ringer for his co-star right when he needs to be.

The gungy world built around these characters is well realised, particularly in service of the plot, which I really want to talk about but shouldn’t. The screenplay is tight, which is so important in a sci-fi film. It does what it needs to do, throws around a decent amount of humour and serves up at least three effectively shocking moments. The grey morality behind each version of Joe is handled in a way that leaves the audience members as final judges of his character, which can be hard to pull off. Director Rian Johnson has done an impressive job making the complex idea behind Looper work as well as it can as a movie. I eagerly await whatever he does next.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Intriguing world, really good performances, narrative keeps you guessing
Bad:
Standard time-travel fiction issues
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515/110A M A Z I N G

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