Time for a brief break from Bond in the form of Rian Johnson’s Looper. Been keeping an eye on this film for a long time now and I’m glad to say it does not disappoint. So I guess that’s my review over. I suppose I could elaborate somewhat on why Looper is so good though. I’ll do that after the link below. Unless of course you came directly to this review and so there’s no link and you can just scroll down… I’ll be honest, couldn’t think of a way to start this review off.
Looper is about a guy called Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who works as a special type of hitman in the space year 2044. 30 years into his future time travel has been invented and mob bosses are using it as a tool for disposing of people they want gone. It’s probably best you ignore the practicality of using a time travel device just to deal with mob hits. In the future, we are told, time travel has been deemed illegal and it’s very difficult to get away with a murder. So the mobs send people back, Loopers shoot them and dispose of the body in the past. Eventually a Looper will kill their future self and their contract as a hitman is done content to know they have 30 years of life with a fair amount of wealth to enjoy it with. This is called closing the loop. Eventually the time comes for Joe to close his loop. Trouble is Old Joe (Bruce Willis) isn’t having any of this and manages to do a runner. He plans to kill a crime boss from the future known as The Rainmaker, who’s been closing loops after taking over multiple Mafia groups single handedly, before he can become The Rainmaker himself.
Pretty much your standard sounding attempt at a convoluted time travel story I guess. Luckily for Looper the film is manages to be a lot more satisfying than the student grade concept might have you believe it to be. A central scene in the film manages to subtly tell you not to worry about the ins and outs of time travel and logic and to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Hopefully most people will because if you start trying to wrap your head around all the technicalities of time travel you’ll end up breaking the film apart and not enjoying it. It’s the same for pretty much any time travel movie. What makes Looper stand above many other similar films is that it’s shot with style, filled with thematic elements to get your teeth into and projects to us a vision of the future that’s quite unlike the sorts of visions we usually get. There’s also the added bonus of the future having telekinetics. The film is firmly in comic style territory and I’ll quite like to see whether It is the time travel of telekinesis that pushes some peoples level of disbelief in a film that has quite a strong realistic tone to it’s world.
When it comes to the style and tone of the film everything is played out in a much more down to Earth tone than you’d probably expect. The film is mostly set in two locations, Kansas city and a farm that houses Sara (Emily Blunt) and potential future Rainmaker Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Kansas is depicted as a run down dirty city filled with vagrants and crime. The look is a mixture of 1960s fashion with modern sensibilities and vehicles rigged to allow for Solar power. There’s futuristic elements around such as mobile phones made from a thin slab of clear plastic and floating bikes but generally everything is just a small step ahead of what we have now. I found the cars rigged with solar panels interesting. It makes you think why all these old cars have had to be rigged that way. Maybe in this future the eventual loss of petrol came about before people were ready. Most of the examples of futuristic technology is also seen in things like billboards and computers suggesting a world that continues today’s trend of spending more time and money on improving entertainment than the things that really matter like standards of living or fuel sources.
The theme of loops runs through the film and it’s characters multiple times. Having Joe be both the hero and antagonist via two separate roles creates a loop of young Joe seeing what he becomes and Old Joe being confronted with who he was. Add to that there’s themes of parentage and the lack of family units. Multiple characters come from or are part of a broken family, including Joe, and the idea of your destiny being malleable plays out multiple times. Joe was a kid in trouble we are told by his boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), who gave Joe his Blunderbuss and a job as a Looper changing his path. As the film plays out we see Joe start to shake off his image as a guy living for now and just for himself into being somewhat of a hero. Meanwhile Old Joe comes to find that doing the task he has set himself may not be all that easy. We’re seeing a character at two different points in his life changing and reacting differently to the events that he has become entangled in/caused.
By the time the credits roll on Looper you’ll feel like you’ve seen a film that has treated you like an adult and has given you plenty of thematic elements to mull over as its story rolled on. This is the sort of level of quality we should expect from action films these days but for some reason we almost never get. Thankfully there has been somewhat of a shift in recent years with films such as this, Inception and the excellent Dredd. What’s needed is more people to go see films like this to help push away from the idiotic crap such as the Resident Evils and Underworlds of the current movie landscape.
Looper is a joy to watch and is shot and directed in a way that helps establish Rian Johnson’s style in a stronger way than his previous two films, The Brothers Bloom and Brick, managed. He does some interesting movements with the camera, such as the shot from the trailer where JGL falls from a fire escape, and generally frames everything with a certain level of comic book style and panache. JGL had make up applied to his face to attempt to make him look more like a younger Bruce Willis but it’s not so extreme that he looks either just like Bruce did in the 80s or to the extent that he doesn’t look like himself. It’s a nice little touch and to be honest I didn’t find it distracting at all unlike some other reviewers have. I guess I’m just not as in love with JGL’s face as they are.
So, go see Looper. It’s a film that deserves your money and if its success keeps Rian Johnson in work then we should be doing what we can to help make that happen. This and Dredd have been two recent films that have managed to cap off a strong but mentally diminished summer movie season with intelligently crafted and satisfying action made for adults. We need more of this. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of the PG-13/12 certificate sucking the life from the balls of the genre that is action. I miss blood, I miss adult themes and I miss the swagger great action films used to have. More of this please Hollywood!