Looper – is super-duper (sorry it had to be said)

Rian Johnson’s previous two films, Brick (classic film noir elements in a contemporary setting) and The Brothers Bloom (kooky con story with a splash of romance), have marked him as an incredible indie film director who creates films that blend different genre elements to make something new and interesting.  And Johnson’s third film, Looper, is the same – a dark and twisty sci-fi that’s a little bit of his usual indie charm, mixed with big Hollywood action.

Looper is very hard to explain – complex plot, but also difficult not to talk about without giving a lot away. It’s set in the year 2044, a year of economic collapse. Further ahead in 2074, time travel has been invented, but outlawed by the government. Through the use of tracking technology it has also been made impossible to carry out murders and the like. The solution? Use illegal time travel to send people who crime bosses and other shady types want dead, back to 2044 where contracted killers called ‘Loopers’ kill their marks and dispose of the bodies in their past. Keeping up so far? One of these Loopers,  Joe (Joseph Gordon- Levitt) is successful, living the good, opulent life that he’s managed to make for himself through this line of work. But one day he’s sent a mark that he recognises: his future self (Bruce Willis)…

Although the plot of Looper is difficult to explain to others, when you do actually watch it (and you concentrate) it is easier to follow. Johnson’s script makes it clear what is happening throughout, cleverly mapping all events and situations in this future universe (and in both timelines) so it makes sense for the audience. Quite an achievement. It’s also very fast-paced. In fact one of the only moments it stops for a breather is when Joe holds up on a farm. But Looper is all the more enjoyable for this continuous, quick tempo.

The design is brilliant, fully immersing you in this world and making the ideas here seem completely feasible. The future world also has a touch of the now about it, something else that makes it more realistic and believable – a few people can float coins using telekinesis (or TK) powers they’ve acquired, but they all still use cars to get around (whether they’re the fast race cars Joe has, or the battered, rusted cars the poorer people have) as the hoverbikes that have been invented are useless. There is also an ominous background of the economic crisis, people in rags on the streets who steal from others and struggle to survive, in contrast to these wealthy Loopers who have everything. The pacing, the complex ideas, the fine details used throughout – they all show how much careful thought Johnson has put into the making of Looper.

Another of the technical details that is astounding is the prosthetic make-up Gordon-Levitt wears to make him look like a younger Bruce Willis. Not only this but his performance as young Joe/Willis is spot-on – his accent, his mannerisms, even his stance. He didn’t have much to do in The Dark Knight Rises, but here he really brings the A-game, marking him as someone to definitely watch in the future and as someone who can reliably carry a big blockbuster film. Willis is equally impressive in particular moments, such as a scene in which he and Gordon-Levitt, or his past and future self, meet and talk things over. And there is an amazing emotional sequence with him in which we get to see his own present (past Joe’s future, or possible future). But overall he is eclipsed by Gordon-Levitt’s very impressive shadow, and because this action role is very similar to what Willis has done in the past.

Willis is also overshadowed by a cast of intriguing supporting characters:  Emily Blunt as Sara, a headstrong country girl protecting her child (very convincing accent and impressive emotional performance), Jeff Daniels as an ominous figure sent back from the future who is in charge of the Loopers (scary but funny, as always), and Paul Dano as Seth, Joe’s friend and a fellow Looper (manic and anxious). And there is an amazing performance from the child actor (Pierce Gagnon) who plays Cid, Sara’s little boy – he’s literally incredible and nearly as impressive as Gordon-Levitt.

All of the detail in Looper makes it astounding to watch, and completely gripping, as do the fantastic action scenes. While the plot does get a little strange later on (one particular twist will determine whether you either love or hate this film), it still feels completely feasible in their future world (and that their world could even be a possible future for us – very scarily so in some respects). Rian Johnson has created something that again feels like it’s uncategorical – a mash-up of many different elements and genres, part Hollywood and indie. And it is all the better for it. It’s absolutely my favourite film of the year so far – as soon as you watch it, you want to watch it again so you can catch more of the rich detail and hints throughout that you didn’t get before. A masterpiece in action, performance, writing, direction, and design.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on October 26, 2012.

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