D/W: Rian Johnson. DP: Steve Yedlin. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis/Emily Blunt/Paul Dano/Noah Segan/Piper Perabo/Jeff Daniels/ Pierce Gagnon/Tracie Thomas/Frank Brennan/Garret Dillahunt.
The young Bruce Willis has arrived! Well, wait, it’s the uber talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a young Bruce Willis. Or should Willis be playing an older Gordon-Levitt? Gordon-Levitt’s character is the protagonist right? Damn it, well, I guess the fake nose clears things up. Or does it?
Director and screenwriter, Rain Johnson, once again collaborates with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Johnson’s third feature, Looper. The pair first worked together on Johnson’s debut film, 2005’s Brick. Although not overwhelmingly impressed with Brick, Johnson’s clear command of his story elements and visual world are even stronger in Looper. The film never slows down and this pace forces the script to tie up every loose end (even how injuries work on future selves). And it is this succinctness and successful balancing of action, suspense, intrigue, drama and science-fiction that is not only catapulting the film through the box office, but into critical notice.
Looper is set in the future when time travel has not yet been invented, but everyone knows it will be and everything’s goes to the dogs anyway. In future of this future (haha) time travel has apparently been invented. However, certain people in the future future cannot dispel of their own dirty dead body laundry. So with the use of their fancy illegal hidden machine, future future crime lords send their sentenced bodies back in time to be shot, bagged, and disposed of by our future. These are the loopers. Given that name because, well let’s face it, any job that revolves around killing and dispensing has an expiration date. Eventually the loopers will have to “close the loop” and kill their own future selves. If this premise alone doesn’t get you to the movie, shame on you.
Of course this set up comes with a few hiccups. Current looper Joe (Gordon-Levitt) dabbles in expensive satiated boredom, hoards his money, and seemingly prepares for his future happy days outside of no-where America. However, when his friend Seth (Paul Dano) is unable to close his loop and suffers for it, Gordon-Levitt semi-awakes from his stupor. Gordon-Levitt is great here, he’s charismatic without being predictable. His Joe is the right amount of conflicted, unsatisfied and smug to, you got it, eventually be his older self played by Bruce Willis. The only jarring thing is Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetic that attempts to match his profile to Willis’. How annoying this will be will depend entirely on the movie-goer, for me, frankly, after the first half hour I let it go as I was so engrossed. I do not think the prosthetic was necessary as there was so much suspension of belief anyway and audiences have spent decades believing people were related or older/younger versions when consciously they new they were not. Thankfully, it doesn’t taint Looper, nor does it help it though.
Willis is excellent here too and helps to ground the action through his seasoned bravado. His scenes with Gordon-Levitt are not hockey and only give the audience a few gimmicks to get a laugh between so much action and drama. Emily Blunt helps to support the two men in her latter half role as a farm working mother with a Southern twang. However, it is Pierce Gagnon who plays her son Sid that easily steals the film. Nothing can be revealed about his purpose, but truth me told the second half of Looper is all his.
My only grievance is that parts of the voice-over get a bit repetitious and yank you out of the rich world of the film. With its excellent pacing, great camera-work and some memorable uses of slow-motion, Looper didn’t need the crutch of that voice-over. Yet, regardless, it’s a wild ride and one that gives you as many answers as it can so you will leave satisfied, and yes, pumped up for more.