The short take: avoid all reviews & close your eyes when the trailer is shown or Looper will be spoiled – just go see it. I got back from a screening of Looper a couple of hours ago and have been buzzing off it since. It is just the kind of film I am constantly bemoaning the lack of - a sci-fi film made for adults. It’s not trying to be everything to everyone it’s a solid in genre sci-fi film with a great cast.
The long version: increasingly I am more aware of how big budget films are becoming more and more defined by two halves. During the first half the filmmakers go about establishing the set up, often going great lengths to confuse & baffle us in an attempt to come across as innovative and suspend the inevitable predictability to come. Somewhere just before the half way mark the second part of the film goes about unwinding the first half and more often than not the second half cannot sustain the credibility as déjà vu and stretched plotlines weaken and drop any promise the first half held. Looper maintains that promise throughout.
I knew relatively little about Looper going in I had seen the early trailers and the posters and had a rough idea of what I though it was about – but there is more to it.
In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.
And I have to say I was in a bit of quandary; the rules of cinematic time travel are fairly well defined not leaving a whole lot to - explore on screen and, well, lately Bruce Willis hasn't exactly been shining, his role choices seem to be up & down - but on the upside Joseph Gordon-Levitt definitely seems to have a lot of pride in his work and is currently choosing roles that aren’t just throwaway efforts and definitely have some longevity to them.
Slowly over the last couple of months my anticipation for Looper grew, so much so that it was on my The Establishing Shot: HOT LIST I just haven’t had as much time to write about it as I would like to. By the time I sat down to see Looper I have to say that I was really quite excited about.
During the first half of the film apart from the occasional chuckle, you could almost hear a pin drop as many were intently watching the screen, one hand on their razor edged knifes, in their overcoats, looking for the chinks in Looper’s armour ready to slash at it and slowly cut it down to size – but hey it didn’t happen and by the end of the film there were applause - something I have only seen once before in a general press screening.
There is so much to love about Looper:
The fantastical premise that is engagingly played out, high concept conceits can easily be deflated if not supported by the other elements that make a film – which they do in spades in Looper’s case. There are some aspects that may feel a little rehashed from other films (and comics), these could be written off as references to genre. I only mention this as some of them didn't work for me, felt oddly out of place and brought the inventiveness of the rest of the film down a little - but they may work for other viewers. One reference that did work for me and I loved, or at least I thought was intentional - was the powerful & hypnotic voice of one of the child actors in the film – he has the exact innocent hypnotic tone & beat match as Cub in the American Shogun Assassin edit of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films.
|Image: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Looper Joe|
|Image: Looper Bruce Willis as Older Joe with a gun|
It may be embodied in an action sci fi film but at its heart Looper is a look at two men, the same extreme two men facing each other at different stages of their life and everything about their viewpoints differing and adapting to outwit each other which brings me to:
The cast and performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels - if you need more, read on. As I say high concept can fail if not supported and a major part of Looper working for me is the cast not just the performances but the casting playing on audience perceptions.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt! Can this guy do wrong? Surely he must be destined to be one of his generation’s brightest lights? For the bulk of the first half of the film, it’s left to Gordon-Levitt to ensure that we buy into the world of Looper as a man of dubious morals with a circle of comrades with a particular set of skills that come to bear in this dystopian near future. Director Rian Johnson creates an interesting world to explore with its own rules and this extends to the people, social dynamics and relationships.
|Image: Looper Jeff Daniels as Abe and Noah Segan as Kid Blue|
|Image: Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe with a gun (GAT)|
|Image: Looper Bruce Willis as Older Joe doing what he does best with a gun|
|Image: Looper Emily Blunt as Sara (not Conner) with a gun|
|Image: Looper Piper Perabo as Suzie (no gun)|
|Image: Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Seth (Paul Dano) cruising in Joe's Miata its a classic in the future.|
In Looper the future tech is shown to work credibly and fits into Johnson’s future well, as an audience that is enough for us to know. If you are interested - go find out more about it.
|Image: Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces his older self Bruce Willis (the gun's in his other hand)|
The Establishing shot: LOOPER REVIEW - WE GO DEEP, DEEP, DEEP IN-GENRE BACK TO TERMINATE THE FUTURE – HOT LIST