Sunday, September 30, 2012

'Looper' Review- What Would You Do to Save Your Future?

Many have been eagerly anticipating Rian Johnson's followup to 2008's 'The Brothers Bloom' for quite some time now. It feels like it's been at least two years since word first broke of this film entering development, with many hints, set pictures, and interviews trying to get the fans excited for his newest film. Expectations have been high, and thankfully, the film delivers on its promise. Johnson has crafted a gripping, powerful, and dark time traveling sci-fi tale that shows just how far a man will go to save his future. But what if there are two of that man, and they both want very different futures? That is the question that 'Looper' asks, while delving into the deepest and darkest side of human emotion, while winding through violence, mystery, and ultimately, greed.

In the near future, time travel hasn't been invented yet, but in thirty years time, it will have been. It's used as a black market tool for criminal organizations when they want to make people disappear. They send the criminals back in time, where a group known as Loopers, kill the criminals and then discard of the body, making the person disappear forever. Eventually though, the Loopers time must come to an end, and their future selves are sent back in time, being killed by their past selves, ending the loop. But when Joe (Gordon-Levitt) lets his future self (Willis) escape, he must hunt his future self to end the loop. But letting him go has put Joe on his boss, Abe's (Daniels), radar, and now everyone is out to get both versions of himself. But future Joe is on a mission to fix his future, and he won't let anyone, not even his past self, stand in his way.

Johnson has really created something special here. His future doesn't look like the ones we normally see, full of neon lights, flying cars, and cities that reach incredibly sky high, or even down deep into the ground. This future is actually very much like our present, but much more dank and dark. At least in the city that we spend much of our time. It's a seedy, dark, and quite frankly awful looking place, where many of the lowest of the low live, where if you cross the wrong person you'll get shot. This future is all a character of its own in the story, one that really moves and breathes, creating something truly terrifying and beautiful at the same time. In a world like this, violence is one that reigns, and Johnson does an excellent job with that. He's crafted some truly great, and small, bursts of action throughout the film that really play like the 80's action movies that Hollywood has seemingly left behind, but is trying to return to. It's the intense, brutal, but not grotesque violence that you can't help but love, and Johnson absolutely nails it. He has an excellent eye for action, and it would be great to see just how well he could pull of a full fledged action film if given the budget. One scene in particular, featuring Future Joe where he takes on an army of Abe's man is a truly excellent crafted sequence that really shows just what Joe is capable of if he's pushed to his limits, and Johnson doesn't hold back. That alone really makes the sequence fun, and strangely beautiful.

This world is also inhabited by some very interesting, and deeply flawed, characters, who are brought to life by Johnson's excellent cast. The cast Johnson has gotten here is excellent, and they all get their moments to shine. Joseph Gordon Levitt is excellent as the younger, drug addicted Joe, who's life is completely flipped upside down when his future self arrives. I can't believe how well Levitt pulled off being a young Bruce Willis, from the way his voice influxes down to his mannerisms. It's really remarkable, and frankly, one of the best performances Levitt has given in his career. Johnson really knows how to bring the best out of him, and it's nice to see them working together again. Then there's Bruce Willis, who gives the best performance he has given in years as the older version of Joe. When we see his story, it's told in a very moving and beautiful montage with no dialogue, and Willis carries the whole thing on just expressions and movements, and it's incredible. This is all the promise that Willis showed when he first came on the scene, and while you can always count on Willis to be Willis, here he's being a completely different character. There's a moment in the film, where future Joe does something so morally twisted, it brings him down to his knees in the pain he's caused, and Willis absolutely owns that moment in a way I haven't seen him do in so long. It's heartbreaking, moving, and beautiful all at once, and shows just how incredible Willis can be when given the right direction and material. This is a career high for him, and it's nice to see that Willis has two of these this year now, with this and 'Moonrise Kingdom' under his belt. Hopefully this is a career turn for him, and we'll be able to get more movies like this, because this is when Willis truly shines. Then there is Emily Blunt, who plays a young, single mother, who has a farm that she runs on her own, while taking care of her young son Cid. Blunt is excellent in the role, but is sadly given the short end of the stick, because her character is more one of convenience than one who truly has an arc. But even so, she really does shine as the hurt and burned out Sara. You can't help but feel for her character, who has gone through so much, even if much of it was caused by herself, and you want to help her. She shares excellent chemistry with Levitt, and some of the best scenes are when they're together. The most impressive performance though comes from young Pierce Gagnon, who plays Sara's son Sid. His performance is pure magic, and terror, all in one. This kid just knows what to do, and how to do it, and his character is one of the most interesting to watch in the film. The quiet moments he shares with Levitt are incredible, but his extreme range as his anger builds in later scenes is truly shocking. He's so scary and deranged, it's very reminiscent of Harvey Stephens' role as Damien in the original version of 'The Omen'. Johnson couldn't have picked a better younger actor for the role, and it'll be truly something to watch young Mr. Gagnon to grow as an actor over the coming years.

The best thing about 'Looper' though, is the fact that while it's an action and mystery filled film, it's not one that makes those front and center. This is a real nice slow boil film, which really works in its advantage. Letting the movie really take its time to tell its story really make the twists and turns, and the eventual dark side the characters delve into, really matter, and you can't help but feel for them. The movie has a just about perfect pace, but many may find the scenes with Levitt on the farm with Sara and Cid to slow down the film's pace. It isn't anything too radical that makes the movie slow to a crawl, but it definitely does slow it down enough that some may get antsy to get back to Older Joe's side of the story, before it all comes to a head. This, for many, may be the film's biggest point, but it holds enough emotional punch and character moments that it works. So much of what is seen during those moments on the farm really make us care and really know these characters, so that when the final part of the act plays out, it really feels real, and everything plays out in an outstanding, and moving, manner that feels satisfying.

Rian Johnson's 'Looper' is something very special. While many sci-fi movies of this nature would put the action and mystery up front, Johnson wisely pushes those to the back burner, focusing on characters and story first. Held up by an excellent cast, many giving some of their best performances to date, really sets the movie apart from others, with Willis and Gagnon really coming out on top. Full of excellent action, enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, and a truly thought provoking script that will leave many talking and thinking about the movie days later, 'Looper' stands above many of its sci-fi counterparts, leaving many in its dust. This is one that many will fall in love with, and it deserves all the love and admiration it can get.


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  1. The cast is great, especially JGL who has been having a stellar career so far, but the plot it what really kept me interested as it continued to throw twist-after-twist at me, without any confusion whatsoever. It’s a great sci-fi flick that actually makes sense. Good review Patrick.

    1. Thanks, Dan. I loved the plot. It's a serious, smart, and fun sci-fi tale, something we don't normally get. Especially with time travel movies. JGL and Willis really give outstanding performances, and I think it could be a career high for both of them. These are the kind of movies I live for. I'm glad it's been doing so well at the box office as well, because I really wasn't expecting it to. Rian, JGL, Willis, and all involved deserve the success.