Looper writer-director Rian Johnson has spent his career blending and bending genres to seamless effect.
Looper writer-director Rian Johnson has spent his
career blending and bending genres to seamless effect.
With his debut feature Brick,
he effortlessly created a high school set, hard-boiled, detective film-noir. His follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, managed to take a globetrotting con-men movie
and inject it with a level of pathos and comedy normally reserved for Wes Anderson’s quirky brand of
filmmaking. It should therefore
come as no surprise that with Looper, Johnson has created one of the most
immersive, compelling and outright brilliant Sci-fi films to grace the screen
in quite some time.
In 2044 time
travel has not yet been invented but 30 years from then it will be. Immediately outlawed the only people
who use time travel are crime syndicates who send people back in time for
hitmen, known as Loopers, to execute them cleanly leaving no trace of
them. Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a drug addicted, ruthless Looper. That is
until his latest target turns out to be him, thirty years older (Bruce Willis). With Old Joe escaping, Young Joe has no
choice but to track him down and ‘close his loop’. Old Joe has other ideas, for he knows that in the future a
new crime lord, known as The Rainmaker, has begun a rein of terror. Determined to change the future, Old
Joe sets about systematically killing off any potential child who could grow up
to be The Rainmaker. This leads
Young Joe to find Sara (Emily Blunt)
and her young son Cid (Pierce Gagnon)
who he knows Old Joe will eventually come looking for.
Taking ideas from
the likes of The Terminator, X-Men
and 12 Monkeys, Looper zips along at
a hell of a pace. Themes of
destiny and decisions echo through the film with the essential conundrum asking
the viewer; if you could go back in time to stop a killer, would you? And in doing so would you ultimately
become or create the villain you set out to stop? It’s one of those questions that if you over think it could
make your head explode. Thankfully
Johnson is aware of this, with Old Joe telling Young Joe that they could spend
the whole day dissecting the science of time travel and it would still scramble
the brain. That’s not to say
Looper doesn’t toy with grand ideas of time travel. In one brilliantly inventive moment an old Looper begins to
lose body parts as his young incarnation is ruthlessly tortured. It puts Back To The Future’s fading photographs into gory perspective.
Looper deals in
moral questions, again drawing inspiration from a film noir perspective of
flawed characters trying to do the right thing by them. Old Joe is killing children to save his
future, Young Joe believes that his destiny is his own. Just because something happened to Old
Joe doesn’t mean it has to happen to him.
And while all these ideas are effortlessly percolating into your
consciousness, Johnson treats us to a believable contrasting look at the
future. While jet-bikes glide on
the streets, poverty is rife. Only
the criminal class seem able to afford luxuries but in doing so are too hooked
on designer drugs to appreciate what they have.
Willis is still
doing his gruff, grumpy thing but here there is a raw emotion to his Old Joe; a
character desperately trying to change the past so his younger self can have a
future. Gordon-Levitt, who the
role was originally written for in a planned short film of the story, is almost
unrecognisable in the prosthetic make-up to give him the Willis nose. On the one hand his Willis ticks are
brilliantly honed but Gordon Levitt lends the character an arrogance of youth
with which to balance Willis’ more calculating experience. Emily Blunt, who always seems to have a
red-hot amount of on-screen chemistry with her co-stars, is riveting as
Sara. Never the damsel in
distress, her Sara is strong willed, a survivor with a burning maternal
instinct that makes the heartache.
Special mention should also go to young Peirce Gagnon, his incarnation
of Cid is a revelation. His
innocent ways often belied by the level of intelligence he displays and in
particular with his blossoming relationship with Gordon-Levitt.
A thrill ride of
ideas, character and story, Looper is like a DNA model wherein to glance at it
might seem daunting but everything fits together with the precision of Joe’s
pocket watch. Often beautiful,
always painstakingly emotional, here is a science fiction morality tale
constantly challenging you to make the same decisions as the characters on