Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, Pierce Gagnon, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo
Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Original Music: Nathan Johnson
Everybody likes a good time travel movie. The problem is that actually making a good film involving a time paradox is incredibly hard. If it’s done right (Back to the Future, Star Trek), the movie becomes a classic. If it’s done wrong, you spend the entire time trying to figure out the complicated plot and wondering if you can travel back in time to warn your past self not to watch the movie (Click, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). Which is why, despite the fact that it includes Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (two AWESOME actors), I was a little worried about Looper. In the trailers it looks great, but it also looks like it’s trying to be a “high concept” action movie as opposed to just a straight up killing fest. I mean, while Christopher Nolan has proven it can work (Inception, Memento, The Dark Knight… ) not everyone has the ability to get the action movie audience to think more about what we’re watching. While Rian Johnson has directed The Brothers Bloom and a few episodes of Breaking Bad, he definitely has a lot to prove with this one. But I put my trust in the guys who have made some amazing films in the past, with a combined resume of Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Inception, (500) Days of Summer, and The Dark Knight Rises – they have certainly proven themselves. Considering how great Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks as a young Bruce Willis, it should at least be fun to watch.
In the year 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a job as an assassin for the mob. But he’s not just a killer, he’s a Looper – someone who kills the people sent back in time to be disposed of 30 years in the past. Time travel has been invented in the future but is immediately outlawed. However, the criminals use it to get rid of the people they want dead without getting stuck with a body. A Looper gets paid extremely well because eventually they will have to “close the loop”, meaning that they will one day dispose of their future self. When Joe is faced with closing his loop, things don’t go as planned. Soon he is on the run to kill Old Joe (Bruce Willis), before the mob takes them both out of service. But the older Joe has a mission to kill the head of the mob, a vicious man called “the rainmaker” in the future, so that he can continue his life with a loving wife. Who will win when you have to fight against yourself?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Bruce Willis
I already love the man, but seeing him do his best Bruce Willis impersonation just puts the icing on the cake. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to act through 2 hours worth of prosthetic make-up, but he still manages to do an amazing job. It’s the little things he puts into the performance, like the accent and the tone of his voice. It’s incredible to see them do a scene together, and they are some of the best parts of the movie.
My worries about it were silly, because the time travel is handled very well throughout the movie. Nothing is too complicated, it’s just a good story. The Looper concept is really interesting, especially when you have the younger and older versions of a person in the same room. One of the more gruesome scenes is when the mob is trying to capture an old Looper who has been sent back to the past to be exterminated, and uses the younger version of the guy to do it. I don’t want to give it away, but the gist of it is that if you do something to the present person the body of the future Looper is effected. While this idea might seem like a given, I promise that you’ve never seen it executed like this. You don’t need “diagrams of straws” (as Old Joe puts it) in order to enjoy this film.
When you make a film about an assassin, there better be a bunch of dead bodies. I think one of the funnier montages (to me anyway), was showing Joe at his day job. People just pop out of thin air in front of him, their hands bound together and a hood over their heads, he blows them away with a big gun and throws the body into an incinerator. It’s presented as just a normal day at the office, as monotonous and unchanging as working in a cubicle. When Bruce Willis shows up, that’s when things get really crazy. The man can still open a can of whoop ass on everybody, and it will always be an awesome experience to watch. The cool thing about this movie? You can watch him beat up his younger self. And he does not hold back when it comes to bringing the pain, even when it might cause some problems further down the line if you slam your head into a table. It sure is fun to watch.
The reason Old Joe comes back in time is to find the head of the mob and kill him before he becomes a threat. It’s the same sort of premise as The Terminator, where they send someone back to take out the child John Connor before he can become the leader of the resistance. But in this version, the kid Joe is trying to get rid of will one day be a ruthless and psychotic killer. Perhaps it’s the knowledge of what he might become in the future, but the kid who plays Cid (Pierre Gagnon) is just creepy. I mean like Children of the Corn type of thing, with big staring eyes and something subtly evil about him. While we don’t know yet if he’s actually the rainmaker (he’s one of three kids that Bruce Willis tracks down), it certainly helps keep the audience on their toes when there is just something a little bit off about a child. And Pierre Gagnon does an awesome job of that.
The Flash Forward Sequence
Probably the only part of the movie that had me scratching my head was this scene. It’s important to the story because it explains what Joe does in the future, and why he needs to kill the rainmaker in the past. But it could have been presented in a way that made more sense. It’s one of those things that only happens in a movie featuring time travel, where if you think about something too much your brain begins to hurt. It starts off with Old Joe being zapped back in time and escaping his younger self. Then we go back to that same scene, but in this one Old Joe is killed. Then we follow Joe as he lives out the next 30 years of his life after he retires. It eventually leads back to that same scene where Young Joe is unable to kill his older self. When you see it, it’s just a weird sequence in the movie. But when you think about it (Why doesn’t Old Joe fight back for that one time? Wouldn’t he be the same Joe with the same motivations to escape? Is it some sort of alternate reality?), you might go cross eyed (like in Austin Powers and the Spy Who Shagged Me). But if you take that slice out of the movie, or give us the information a different way, it makes the whole thing less complicated. Which is why I prefer not to think about it.
Overall: 4.5 Stars out of 5
I don’t know that everyone will enjoy it, but I certainly did. Looper is a great action flick with a really cool premise. There are some great fight scenes and images that will stick with you. It’s one of those movies that I want to see again, because I’m sure that I’ll notice different things now that I know the whole story. Rian Johnson did a great job creating a complex time travel story that is easy to understand and enjoyable to watch. He had help from two great actors, who could play the same character in very different stages of life and make us believe every word. It may not have won the weekend box office, but I’m sure Looper will prove to be in the same league as anything from Christopher Nolan. Watch and enjoy.