“This time travel crap just fries your brain like an egg”, quips Jeff Daniels in Looper, the latest movie from modern film-noir favorite Rian Johnson. This marks the third movie for Johnson, director of the 2005 cult classic Brick, and the forgotten The Brothers Bloom from 2008. Looper had a lot of hype leading up to its release. It was the opening film of the Toronto International Film Festival, received enthusiastic word of mouth, and the three main stars even hailed it as the best movie they’ve ever done. If you want to talk about ORIGINAL screenplays, then Looper’s well worth your time. It’s hard to find movies as original as this one.
The year is 2044. Time Travel will be invented, and outlawed in 30 years, used only in secret by mob bosses. It is very difficult to kill a person in that day due to such advanced tracking technologies. To work around this, the mob sends these targets back in time (in a way faintly reminiscent of The Terminator) to be murdered and disposed of by trained assassins known as Loopers. One of these assassins is Joe (Played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). An ace at his job, he collects his payments of silver bars for a job well done, stocking it up to move out of the country. When the Looper’s services are no longer needed, their future selves are sent back to be eliminated by their past selves, a process called “closing the loop”. However, a moment’s hesitation causes Joe to fail killing his older self (Played by Bruce Willis), who is dead set on exterminating a mob boss as a child to stop a tragedy in his own life from happening.
Johnson clearly takes influences and methods of various legendary Science-Fiction’s (Similar to the style of Quentin Tarantino), but weaves them all into a fantastic whole that totally feels its own. Aside from just sci-fi, Johnson also mixes in his usual neo-noir flair, and the scope of spaghetti westerns. All of his characters are nothing short of brilliant, and especially through his directorial style (with outstanding editing by Bob Ducsay), the movie shines bright.
Johnson particularly does well to showcase the various themes, one in particular of mankind’s common quest, and even futile efforts to “change the future”. It really places an emphasis on the importance of choice, and the long term consequences of it. In the rift between times, one bad decision could be doomed to repeat itself in a vicious, never ending cycle. That’s one of several heavy ideas, and Johnson relishes in provoking the mind with them all in a way that almost makes Inception look like child’s play in the process.
Of course, the characters would probably be nothing without the complete dedication they deserved, and the kind of dedication their actors delivered, and then some. Bruce Willis hasn’t been this good in years, feeling less like his usual John McClain, and more akin to his emotional performance in the underrated Unbreakable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (fresh off The Dark Knight Rises) is the perfect match and adversary for Willis, and not merely because his appearance is so uncanny for a younger version of him. Part of what sells the illusion of this movie is how much the two are alike in their mannerisms, but feel like polar opposites in their personal motivations.
If you want a real standout, look no further than Emily Blunt, whose character, Sara, is a single mother living on a farm, and totally prepared to protect her family. Willis and Levitt did their roles well, but Blunt deserves extra credit for how hard it must have been to properly play this character. Sara is a stern and tough soul, and a loving and understanding one at that. At the same time, there’s this vulnerability in her, like an uncertainty and terror welling up inside, despite how committed she is to her duties. Blunt may not be the flashiest aspect of Looper, but she is without doubt the best.
Overall, Looper is impressive, a must see for any fan of science-fiction. Still, I want to avoid giving it my highest rating until seeing it again. It's a hard movie to really nail down. In fact, in trying to formulate my thoughts, this one review took me nearly two hours to finish. Looper is a movie that needs time and contemplation for one to let it soak in. The food for thought it leaves you with can be overwhelming to think over, but that’s what makes it such a rewarding experience. If you want something that’ll challenge the mind, and may even have more in store on multiple viewings, this is a perfect choice for you. You’ve never seen one like this before.
****1/2 / *****